Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tender Discoveries in a Brutal Life

For over 1,500 years, the above-pictured Roman-era skeletal couple have been holding hands--or to be more precise, bones, they've been holding bones, digits, carpals, joints--defying the unassailable wrath of time and decay in tiny but no less significant ways, through the only measure we small human animals can: through symbols, through metaphor, and through sheer obduracy. To read the full story of the archeology dig, check it out here. Of course the full story is not, is never, cannot even tap into the full story. The people who buried these two thought, at the time, that it was important, for whatever symbolic or metaphysical reason, to arrange them as such, to signify to others at the time that while death may have its way with everyone at some point, while it may obliterate and decimate everything substantial in this world as we conceive of it, the honoring and placement of these two is meant to signify that there was and still is, long after they've ceased to exist and disappear into sheer nothingness, long after submitting to the influence of time, something remarkable and brave about the way they lived and they way they died, i.e. together, in union, a force of two individuals pitted against the eroding shoreline of the world, staring oblivion directly in the face, hand-in-hand, shoulder-to-shoulder. The woman, wearing a bronze ring, is set with her eyes staring at her male companion while her partner, whose head was once turned in the direction of the woman, has since rolled and lolled over to the opposite direction. But originally, they were positioned so that they were staring at each other from behind dead eyes. In these times--times of disease, plague, antiquated times where health was a complete and utter crapshoot--it wasn't uncommon for couples or family members to die at proximal, similar, or even at the exact same time. This finding occurs five years after another couple, this time 5-6,000 years old, found in Mantua, the site on which the old bard's Romeo et Juliette is set, also locked in a similar if not even more loving and intense embrace.
This burial, much, much older than the one with which this post began, was plenty more rare and intriguing, at least at the time, as double burials in the neolithic period were considered rare. The caveat here is one of those "as far as we know" sort of deals, where our knowledge on neolithic burials is based on an embarrassingly thin lot and, for all we know, double burials were as frequent as ever. Nevertheless, pace Voltaire, doubt is preferred to certainty (with which I agree) and those speciations of humans who existed 5,000 years ago couldn't possibly have known the cultivated, advanced, and sophisticated forms of love, ardor, intimacy, obsession, and romance in which we dabble now in our cosmopolitan epochs, and they couldn't have possibly with all their primal, tribal, prehistoric characteristics found any use with passionately developed relationships and sustained feeling, they couldn't have possibly felt like we feel about our loved ones and the need to symbolically concretize those feelings long after death, the emotions they felt couldn't have been as complicated and nuanced as my own (with which I virulently disagree). It's embarrassing, egocentric, and insensate to think others could not have loved as hard and as longingly as you, could not have been as afraid as you, and could not have needed the hand, the torso, the shoulder, or the body of another to pad the abrasive pain we must endure in our regular per-diem lives, even if those people happen to be from millennia ago. It is, in fact, that kind of arrogance, a denunciation of all that from which we come and a gross example of ingratitude at the wonderful examples of simple living done by those whom came before and paved such exemplary paths, that ensures our futures will be more difficult than they need to be and situates a yawning, negligent distance between us and our historical antecedents, from whom we can learn much.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Wealth in Rain

Insects, bugs, crawlers, and the like are still, to my mind, some of the most fascinating creatures on the planet, a dizzyingly spinning geodesic globule planet full of, I admit, engrossing, enrapturing creatures. But it's the insects (not to mention a few reptiles, lizards, and animals, but only a few) which retain a kind of primordial, dinosaurian, prokaryotic look about them that makes them so richly present and reminds us, as people, how far the planet has come, from where it has come and where we have thus arrived (not, however, to imply that we have arrived at anything permanent or fixed), from where we have come, and where, potentially, it (the planet) and we might be going (let us hope against the evidence that this direction is auspicious). Miroslaw Swietek recently captured a slew of macro images of rain-sprinkled insects, taking the photos early in the morning when the dew was still clinging to the insects in his native village in Poland, when the insects are still torporous and immune to the intrusion of the camera. The result is simply gorgeous and can be found at the link provided. A few images have been provided by moi for interest-piquing purposes only. 

Notice how the water magnifies the numerous high-powered lenses of the dragonfly's eye, showing how honeycombed and clustered they are. More lens = more pixels = better and more blisteringly precise vision.

The dragonflies, thanks to their compoundness and complexity, are consistently awestriking. The subtle goat-tee of bubbled waterdrops is lovely.

The bejeweled beetle!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The World is Violently Unwell

Take one quick look at global news, and you'll see pretty quickly that London isn't the only area in the world right now going through some genuinely turbulent and floor-shaking insurrection. Rebellions, protests, demonstrations, revolts, and any number of other nouns most news agencies will ignore in place of the pejorative and dismissive "riot" are occurring on nearly every continent, much of it coming from a exceptionally disenfranchised youth culture who is appropriately, understandably, and justly upset with what has become of the market-driven neoliberal policies which have resulted roundly in failure, widespread cuts to vital infrastructural measures, and dizzying poverty and wealth-gaps. At this very moment, the ground underneath all of our feet feels particularly brittle and unsteady, not because of the threat of some kind of foreign "terrorism", but because of the domestic policies that have been in place collecting dust and quietly bringing ruin to our countries, our cities, our lives, hopes, and every single dream. While Tottenham's frustrations spread through London, Chile right now is undergoing a massive student-led movement involving a number of varied demonstrations--"Mass suicide by education" protests in which students scream and clamor before lying down in the street, "dead"; "passion for education" clusters in which whole streets are clogged by students kissing and making out; hunger strikes and more--in protest of the country's floundering educational system. What they're specifically seeking a plebiscitary process to increase the funding and the level of quality of the public schools, and ultimately that for which they're asking is a overhauling to the framework of the whole education system, including increased state participation in secondary education and a moratorium placed on educational profiteering. An August 11th poll demonstrated the an almost overwhelming 72% of the Chilean population approved of the student movement, a level of endorsement I believe you'd be hard-pressed to find in American polls if our frustrated students went ahead and engaged in the same insurgent behavior, which they have every good and solid reason to do.
The Atlantic just put out a tremendous and elucidatory--and emotional--series of photos taken from the protests. They make your heart hurt. I'll drop a couple below but check out the whole lot of them; they're intensely visual. I firmly believe that we're, as a world, as a whole global populace, approaching a breaking point, a fiscal breaking point, a societal breaking point, a human breaking point. We are seriously in need of some kind of transportive, transformative succor or medication or resolve--something analgesic. People are frustrated and in pain; they're afraid and alone. They feel abandoned and ignored by the policymakers and the governments who have toyed with them for years as if those underneath them were made of this kind of superplastic material who could bend and twist and be pulled apart without eruption, and guaranteeing them their best interests were in mind. This has all been slowly fomenting, I'd say, for thirty or forty years. The world will change or people will make it change by bringing it to its knees; the world will listen or the people will rip its ears out. These aren't the first rebellions and, unfortunately, it's likely they won't be the last. Think of Spain's 15-M or the Arab Spring going on. These aren't capricious uprisings, but rather they come from an incredibly disgruntled society sick of political jargoneering and mealymouthed status quo-keeping charlatans and orators who differ from religious orders only in their uniforms or lack thereof. To be clear, what I don't mean to imply is a kind of logical, philosophical, or ideological concinnity or a similarly realized underpinning for each and all of these outbursts. They are occurring for their own bevy of reasons worthy of study and rational, unbiased attempts at understanding. What is similar, though, is the frustration, the hopelessness, and the anger, which is there, and which has been there for who knows how long, and which is manifesting itself through similar but different modes of rancorous expression, expression and rabid activity we would be wise not to write off as unjustified or nihilistic or greedy. For the record, most of the students seen in the pictures are covering their faces not to protect their identity but to keep them safely blocked-off from the toxic tear gas. All photos are credit to the Atlantic and Alan Taylor. The spirit of this social energy is captured in these photos and should be seen by as many people as possible. In one of the photographs, the grafitti-tagged words "Chile Lucras Con Todo" can be seen, what looks like, stencil-printed onto a building wall. Translation: Chile, you do everything for profit. Sound familiar? It should for a depressing and uncountable number of countries where suffocating systemic implementations have laid waste to entire groups and subsets of "nonessential" people, who neither provide much revenue for the country nor are they large enough for politicians to spend time pandering to. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011


"I am the manager, said the manager, since he was the manager." Beckett, Mercier et Camier

This is, without a doubt, one of those things that most people would certainly never find funny (not even if they read it themselves in the context of the novelistic setting) but when I came across this brief vaudevillian line in one of Beckett's earlier novels about, what else, two vagabonds trying and failing to leave an oppressive and asphyxiating city, as he was still experimenting with and discovering his form and style (and also his first French-written novel), I laughed, out loud, by myself, for a good five minutes, repeating the sentence over and over in a joyous delirium I imagine Beckett would appreciate. Thinking of it now, still, I laugh, a good gut-pinching guffaw. 'Tis the little things that get us by, bit by fucking bit.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Thank You Oakland Heretics, Blasphemers, & Apostates!

Thank goodness for some people with a little practicality remaining inside those cavernous, underutilized heads of theirs. Check this out right at the foot of the Oakland Bay Bridge before the world ends, and while you're at it keep heading towards the East Bay for what's supposed to be one of the largest Rapture Parties at Oakland's Masonic Center on Saturday and Sunday, which party/conference is expected to draw somewhere around 200 folks or so not afraid of spontaneous death, lakes of fire, asteroidal toppling, or five month torment at the hands of huge scorpions, unrolling carpets of earthquakes, which will feature (the conference, not the onset of doom) "keynote speeches from scholars, bloggers, student activists, former Christians, atheist feminists, and other crusaders." All the information you need is here.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Shallow, Febrile Celebrations of Meaninglessness

So Osama bin Laden is dead (or might be dead), which the US is quite ready to claim without proffering the body, though they claim they had it, and even claim they buried him at sea to peaceably accord with the Muslim tradition of burying the dead within 24 hours postmortem, all of this within mere hours of the actual pronouncement of the deed; I'd be dishonest if I didn't say that all of this sounds mightily suspicious and dubious. For a high-profile person of historical importance like bin Laden, this kind of quick and convenient religiously sensitive disposal makes no sense whatsoever. And so Gadhafi’s kid and grandkids are dead (or might not be dead, might not even exist, according to US and NATO, at least not until they proffer the bodies). Legal and philosophical burden of proof stuff and matters vaguely similar to it, how it applies and to whom it applies and to whom it doesn’t and when it does and when it doesn’t—it’s all very confusing. But like on most issues, it seems as if America is making their own rules and sticking hard and fast to them irrespective of the rest of the world. If Osama is dead…then terrorism is over, right? No. The world is now safe from threats? No. "A mortal blow has been dealt to al Qaeda"? Sorry. Sounds nice, but not that either. A front waged against undefined "terrorism" is a measurable war with clear-cut outcomes and goals against America- and freedom-hating infidels orchestrated by on arch-villain madman under whom all inner- and outerworkings function? No. Not at all. What’s certain is this: The death (or rumored death) of Osama bin Laden means absolutely nothing. Closure is a word invented by pop psychology books, and chances are (much like what Edith Wharton said of happiness) if you're seeking closure, you're probably going to have a rough time finding it. A literal translation of Habeas corpus: show me the body. Prove to me that this is something besides a scapegoat for all of Americas' and our executive's frustrations. Everything I've read thus far is all anonymous this and undisclosed that and 99% this but can't confirm that. According to some bin Laden has been dead for a few years now. According to others the man as we've construed him has never even existed (like Jesus, probably) except on American television. Now these might very well be shaky-fingered conspiracy theories in which one would have to be a little bit screw-loosened to believe, but one would have to be equally screwless in the head to believe that the death of Osama bin Laden carries with it any nanoscopic amount of national or international import. Whose to say American forces didn't just now come across the emaciated body of a man who'd died in the desert from privation and heat and decided to say they executed him, to boost morale? Whose to believe any of this without the same burdens of proof the government asks of everybody else, especially other countries. Nevertheless, say this is true, say bin Laden had been, upon executive order, brought down in Pakistan after ten years of wearying searching, destroying, and dying on the behalf of American (but not only American) troops. This is what we call a pyrrhic victory, if it is even that at all—a minor “triumph” offset by an outlandish tonnage of losses, the balance of which is not even proximal to being evened. Is this the rate of success we can expect, then--ten years per one success--let alone one with which we're content? Will it take another ten, twelve years to bring down another figurehead on whom our government chooses to place their crosshairs? Is any of this even worth it? Besides giving a small population of people yet another martyr to shower with praise and adulation, what does this accomplish in the grand or even in the miniscule scheme of things. Forget the macro; what's the micro gain of this? Not much. Nobody honestly thinks this man's death does anything to compensate for 9/11 and the nearly 3,000 lives wrongfully taken from this planet thereon. That's not true, I guess, because the counterterrorism head seems to believe that al Qaeda is a thing of the past now and considers America a categorically safer place, and the fact that this is our counterterrorism chief is just a little bit upsetting to me; those sentiments are mere wishful thinking and American fear- and ego-stroking with "narrative agenda" written in blood all over them. We're talking about a guy, bin Laden, whose role over the past ten years has been so scarcely limited he might as well have not existed at all. And now, after what is and has always been an overblown and overhyped threat from al Qaeda to begin with after 9/11, after the death of that organization's feeble old symbolic face has finally died, America wants to act as if a major blow has been delivered and al Qaeda has been crippled; and while that's a nice and cleanly composed story book morality tale with a happy ending, it doesn't have much to do with the actual way reality has played out. I understand the potentially viewed insensitivity of what I'm saying to those who've lost loved ones in these acts, and I of course feel for you, I truly do, and I empathize with all your anguish, anger, and suffering, but I stress the point of an earlier sentence: this does nothing to mitigate any of that, at least nothing beyond temporary respite, the deferment of said anguish. Killing one man cannot make anything better; it cannot make up for ten years of mistakes and cluster-fucked ham-fisted clumsiness; and it cannot clean up the confusing messiness of the 9/11 acts in the first place. They happened and the death of their "orchestrator" cannot make them any more understandable or easier. It doesn’t vindicate the wars nor does it make up for all the lives lost therein. It inflicts not a lick of damage to the vast and interconnected system of al Qaeda and its diffuse and little understood affiliates; what it does put an end to is most Americans' symbolic understanding of that organization, and bin Laden is just that: a crudely drawn symbol and a practically irrelevant figure to them in recent years, a boogeyman for all of America's despair, fears, and anger. al Qaeda means "the base" in Arabic and that's exactly what their goal has been from the start: to be the base, which isn't the same thing as a central source of power, but a kind of loose gathering point of uncountable divisions and branches, subsidiaries and take-offs with marginally different ideological goals, all self-sustaining and all able to rely on others if need be, so many of them that it would impossible to track them all. What the jubilant and eerie celebration of this does is point to how futile and interminable these wars are and how desperate and yearning-for-anything of a nation we have become and how just plain old ignorant (or worse, in denial) to the state of things most of us are. Call it “justice” if you want; the dead aren’t coming back nor are they even watching. If there is such a thing as an afterlife and the dead are in fact capable of observing us, I hope to hell they've turned their back on our sad little dramas for something more interesting years ago; were I to be dead, I would much prefer to watch the gradual burning out of a distant star or the birth of a galaxy than the unforgivable cruelty and wastefulness of the human race. This is nothing more than a sadly trumpeted sensation to make up for what has been a decade of fruitless engagements, staggering losses of life, and rampant hopelessness in search of an end to a war (and a series of wars) without end, without directive, without, in general, a point. To combat terrorism is a vague and meaningless mission, in addition to which it is dangerous and reckless. For every Osama bin Laden you kill there are probably 300 more you don’t know about. The world (and America) is not even a scintilla safer than it was before, and to think that either of the two are demonstrates a fundamentally cracked and childish understanding of the world in which America is still a do-no-wrong spandex-clad superhero and purported “evil” can still be stamped off in one swift blow by felling a comic-book type of head-honcho evildoer. The lives that have been lost are lost and no amount of violence can rectify or make up for this. To celebrate this minor footnote on the grim, sanguine spreadsheet of these wars as a kind of comprehensive military triumph over evil, a symbol of American indomitability, and to pretend that because the American military managed (or may have managed) to kill one person who has been wandering around caves, luxuriating in compounds, and herding goats for the past ten years will in any way ensure a greater blanket of safety on the world is either shamelessly and pueriley naïve and simplistic or willfully ignorant and an example of seeing the world through perpetually red, white, and blue blinders, but it’s most likely all of the above, not to mention a pinch jingoistic. If anything, this is an example of America's singleminded compulsivity and perilously cathectic behavior disorder, in that we will pursue the first thought-best thought plan, no matter how terrible it is or how much damage (human and financial) it causes us, because that's what Americans do--get the goddamn job done at all costs; and it's there, that "at all costs" where you lose me and where you lose, as it turns out, lots of living, breathing lives, and where, in my opinion, the ends here are simply unjustified vis-a-vis the means, and not even close to being worthwhile. Watching the celebrations redolent of the kind of mind-numbing fist-pumping of fans after a superbowl victory, I'm actually a little stomach-sick at how myopic and callowly credulous we can be. The best and most composed way to celebrate or, let's try a better word, acknowledge the death (or rumored death) of Osama bin Laden would be to ignore it and ignore him, to go about your lives with your heads up and your eyes open, to continue being brave in a dangerous and violent world, to find some way to be kind to someone whom might need it, to dive in to the world and life you have right here and eke out as much significance as you can with the people you love because it all moves pretty rapidly and one doesn't have enough time to get caught up with pettiness and useless allocations of time, like the death of one insignificant Afghani guy with a beard who may or may not have been entirely responsible some massively and heinously atrocious acts, and to remember that there are still many thousands of men and women overextended, overtaxed, and being treated, in general, like armamentary apparatuses rather than human beings overseas pursuing an increasingly fragmented, dissolute, and disillusioned war against a nebulous conceptual enemy by which this country is being torn open and bankrupt and against which there is no genuine way of safeguarding and protecting ourselves, not in any meaningful way at least. Regardless of how you feel about bin Laden and 9/11 and the horrors thrust upon the country and the country's consciousness at that moment, there's something sick and depraved about excitedly and joyously celebrating the death of bin Laden, a ghastliness and a depravity that brings us right back around full circle to why we're here, because of a uniform celebration of death and destruction, mayhem and ruination, the same celebrated death and destruction that bin Laden and his janissaries felt when they toppled the towers and felt, for themselves, a sense of closure, an upper-hand, a comeuppance. Human life is human life is human life is human life is human life is human life; you want to be proud that he's gone, fine, go ahead. But to celebrate it, to want to see POV footage, as I've heard expressed, of the man being gunned down, the desire to see his shed blood, the extended desire to kill his family--i.e. to want to turn bid Laden's death into entertainment, which is what Americans want to do to everything--it's all a byproduct of the same sociopathic, inhumane, and detached viewpoint that brought us here in the first place--an unwillingness to approach even remotely understanding one another; an absolute self-assuredness and confidence in the purity, religiosity, nobility and almost saintliness of one's actions; a total dearth of doubt; and a kind of tumescent sense of pride in oneself and implosive self-centeredness--so to celebrate, to be mirthful and ecstatic at this death, is to be complicit in everything involved; be glad that a small chapter is finished and move on. Hate is a corrosive thing; energy is precious; and so you've got to be careful about to what or to where you devote it, and to hate bin Laden, to relish in his death (of which, in the end, I'm still a little unconvinced), not to mention to try and seek some kind of resolution from it, is nothing but a waste of time and personal resources and won't last you in the long run. I repeat: this means nothing other than a forced and false meaning affixed onto a linkage of wars devoid of any such thing. But it's fine. We'll buy signs and banners congratulating ourselves on bin Laden's death, we allow ourselves to be commercialized by the whole event, we'll join facebook groups commemorating and celebrating the death of bin Laden, we'll make jokes, we'll advocate for holidays in which we get a day off because of the rumored and as-yet unproven death of bin Laden, we will, in essence, trivialize not just the death of bin Laden, the deaths of those in 9/11, and the deaths of all those who have died until now and who will continue to die along the circuitous courseways of this pathetically empty-hearted and -headed war, but death itself, and when you trivialize death itself you also, as a result, trivialize and cheapen life, you make life all that much more meaningless than it already is right out the tabula rasa-gates. But it's fine. It's America. I get it. We're sad and desperate and incultured. Flags will wave briefly, car horns will honk wildly in feigned joyousness, and people will drink themselves into a stupor they will tell themselves is about American pride and not their own problems with their own dissatisfying lives, but in the days that follow the originally scheduled programming will return to America like the vomitous pall that it is with all the self-satisfying reliability of prime time television, and those sterilized, overly saccharine pop star voices auditioning to be big hits and national anthem-crooning baseball park stars and starlets will continue telling you the same fallacious nationalistic bromides you've been told for too many years for there to be any hope of reversibility: you are special; you are righteous; you are so fucking great.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

On Endings:

"The ending of a novel isn't usually very important. In fact,people never seem to remember the endings of novels (most especially crime novels--that's what makes them so re-readable) and movies (especially, once again, thrillers and whodunits). Conclusions and final explanations are often the most irrelevant--and disappointing--parts of a novel. What counts the most--and what we remember the most--is the atmosphere, the style, the path, the journey, and the world in which we have immersed ourselves for a few hours or a few days while reading a novel or watching a movie. What matters, then, is the journey along the horizon--in other words, the journey that never ends." Javier Marías, Spanish novelist and short-story writer.

First things first, Javier Marías is an excellent novelist of whom you need to be reading more. He's breathtakingly amazing. Secondly, This quote of his, which comes from a series of questions at the end of his short novel Voyage Along the Horizon, echoes my every sentiment regarding endings perfectly. Endings are, always, the part of novels I hate to read to the most, and I hate them even more when I can sense that the writer is trying, trying ever so hard, to smoothly end the novel in a conclusive and audaciously artificial way that just doesn't happen anywhere else in the world other than fiction, and I can catch the scent of an incoming "suddenly" epiphany from a mile away. Let the story linger, let the threads extend allusively, let the pieces fall where they fall, and then step away. Tie nothing up. Life goes on. My favorite books are the ones whose covers I close and wonder, with joy and awe, what comes next for these characters, where do their lives go from here? I'll never know, and that's the tragic beauty of it. My favorite books are the ones whose endings seem to end everything I've just read and yet, somehow, end nothing at all. My favorite books are the ones whose endings explore, explode, and dive into the absolute mystery and confusion present in this life, not attempt to wrestle it into a controlled, understandable, and safe submission.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Stupid and Cruel Is Alive & Well in America

Not that, you know, there's ever any convincing reason to believe the stupid and cruel isn't alive and well in America, but sometimes it's important to call attention to those egregiously self-identifying, red flag-waving examples of such mind warpage. All of this is, of course, in response to the terribly tragic 8.9 earthquake in Japan. I'm willing to bet every one of these posters are good old god-fearing, bible-thumping, gospel-quoting christians in whom hypocrisy is more or less the 11th commandment: thou shall hypocricise frequently, readily, blindly, repulsively. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I always prefer it when authors personalize their little "the following portrayals are based in fiction" disclaimers in the first few pages of a book. What exactly it adds for me, I have no idea, but I think it's that it's entertaining, in a wink wink, nod nod sort of way, to see the author, outside of the work of art in question, discussing the work of art qua a work of art qua its basis in reality or lack thereof and how, at once, in holds dominion in both reality and unreality. How delighted I was then when I found this on one of the opening pages of Fernando del Paso's epic and masterful Palinuro of Mexico:

"This is a work of fiction.
If certain characters resemble certain people in real life, it is because certain people in real life resemble characters from a novel.
Nobody, therefore, is entitled to feel included in this book.
Nobody, by the same token, to feel excluded."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"All Art Constantly Aspires to the Condition of Music"

Two dope albums worth checking out that came out over the past week and this weekend with videos/songs dropped below: Abstract & ambient noise expressionist Tim Hecker's Ravedeath, 1972 and Radiohead's long-awaited latest The King of Limbs, both of which are just excruciatingly good; one is a blissful dive into warped sonic wreckage and pipe-organ-smeared-by-synths-and-haze airiness, and the other is a surprisingly funky Brazilian dub kind of thing but not surprisingly amazing in the most peerless way (because it's Radiohead and I more or less expect amazing peerlessness from them). Both, however, are deeply transportive records but for very different reasons. The above quote is from Walter Pater, an English art critic, essayist, and fiction writer, and I agree with its assertion without reservation.

Quick note on Radiohead in general: I don't think there's been a single group of musical artists more deft at and willing to change, explore, and evolve without seeming to ever worry one bit about how this alteration will be received, and for that I'm incredibly thankful and excited. This record, for example, is one of the funkiest of their outputs, a word that I don't imagine had been used often in discussing Radiohead.

And to bookend the titular Pater quotation, I'll end with a Thomas Mann from The Magic Mountain, which if you haven't read then shame on you: "Can one tell – that is to say, narrate – time, time itself, as such, for its own sake? That would surely be an absurd undertaking..." He goes on to align storytelling (and I would argue art overall) with the tempo of experience, rather than the representation of some kind of linear, Newtonian time, which is false and misleading. But tempo, musicologically speaking, concerned with the mood and the speed and the pace and the feel and the psychological and physical space of a given piece, seems more appropriate to talk about when talking about the way in which we, as humans, experience time. Storytelling is eventually compared directly to music making, both similarly described in their ability to "only present themselves as flowing, as a succession in time, as one thing after the other."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Attacking Fluff

I'm not shy about saying I think a large proportion of what Malcolm Gladwell puts into his books is unfounded, specious, sophistic bullshit, all of which sometimes might sound nice and inspiring but upon further critical thinking and a kind of rigorous examination sort of falls in on itself due to a lack of solid and solidly researched foundation and a gross tendency to confuse and/or conflate correlation with causation. That out of the way, this website, The Malcom Gladwell Book Generator, is probingly spot on and precise--not to mention funny. 


Saturday, February 12, 2011

History, Civilization, & Time Are Our Subjects, Like It or Not

Obvious statement: Carlos Fuentes is masterful and spellbinding. That out of the way, I'm lost and immersed in his humongous Terra Nostra, which he described as his attempt to write and account for a new history of Spain and South America, and a couple passages (a lot of passages) have struck out at me with some pretty aggressive immediacy, which passages I will gladly drop below.

"'You continue to believe that the world culminates in you, do not deny it; you continue to believe that you, you yourself, poor señor caballero, are the privilege and the sum of all creation. That is the first thing I want to advise you: abandon that pretense.'"

"'You look at me with scorn; you believe I am mad. You know how to measure time. I do not. Originally because I felt I was the same; later because I felt I was different. But between before and after, time was forever lost to me.
Those only measure time who can remember nothing and who know how to imagine nothing. I say before and after, but I am speaking of that unique instant which is always before and after because it is forever, a forever in perfect union, amorous union.'"

"'One lifetime is not sufficient to reconcile two bodies born of antagonistic mothers;
one must force reality, subject it to his imagination, extend it beyond its ridiculous limits.'"

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Belated Postholiday Roundup

The holidays speed by, for which I'm more grateful than nostalgic. It's good, I think, that they terminate almost as soon as (sometimes sooner) than they begin. That the bulk of my holidays included either reading, writing, and/or listening to new music was a tremendously refreshing experience, all through which I swept over to New Mexico, D.C., and back. I simmered and gestated and birthed for about two weeks, mentally and psychologically speaking. What follows will be a list of striking quotations from books and stories devoured, pictures taken for a roughhewn pictographic travelogue sort of thing, as well as some of the key tracks that came out in what amounted to holiday gift-giving from a number of my favorite artists (jj, yeasayer, the klaxons, MIA, & others I'm forgetting) all of whom released free or name-your-price eps, live albums, mix-tapes, &c over the holidays, thus providing all a person truly needs for happiness besides the whole food & shelter deal: books and music. Also, because I cannot get enough, I'll drop in a few of the yearend's best space shots. All in all a beautiful and short winter holiday (and not to mention year) spent with the people (and the person) I love, doing the things which constitute who and what I am. If I were the type of person to aggregate the best of the best of the best of the best of the best literature, music, film, art, and whatever into a spartan and digestible Best Of 2010 list, I would, but I find that type of crass selection and privatizing so abominable I avoid it altogether. Peace in the new year, fuck the world.

Baltimore to Brooklyn to Worldwide: Yeasayer, live album at Alcienne Belgique in Belgium. I couldn't find any decent pure audio versions of this, so some less-than-sonically-pellucid videos will have to suffice. You can cop the album for a cost of your choice (free, .99, 2.99, 4.99 &c), thanks to the wonderful
Yeasayer guys, of whom everyone should be familiar. If you haven't seen them live or have and want something a little more lively permanent for your collection, grab this now.

JJ released their Kills mixtape on Christmas Eve. Like a lot of their work, it's loaded with pop and hip hop samples far and wide, recondite and popular, surprising and expected, all breathily and hypnotically spirited over with Elin's amazing, vapor-thick, and constantly yearning vocals, the combinatory effect of which is just stunning and bracing, and even a little bit disorientingly transcendent in a weird way. Grab it
here at Sincerely Yours gratis. In the span of about two years, the Swedish duo has an output already on par with some groups and artists who've been around for a decade, not one fraction of which isn't worth sitting down and sinking into. Elin's ethyrean voice finds that weakest spot in your cortical center, that weakest vertebrae, and soothes the living shit out of it. For me, despite or in spite of the autotune found occasionally here, her voice opens up to miraculous spaces on this mixtape, places to which she hasn't quite gotten before, and she sounds a little bit more confident than before, and the songs benefit from it.

"All of Ionesco's theatre contains two strands side by side--complete freedom in the exercise of his imagination and a strong element of the polemical. His very first play, The Bold Soprano, was an anti-play, and as such a criticism of the existing theatre as well as a type of dead society. The same, strongly pugnacious spirit manifests itself in Ionesco's entire oeuvre, and it is therefore quite wrong to regard him as a mere clown and prankster. Ionesco's plays are a complex mixture of poetry, fantasy, nightmare--and cultural and social criticism. In spit of the fact that Ionesco rejects and detests any openly didactic theatre ('I do not teach, I give testimony. I don't explain, I try to explain.' he is convinced that any genuinely new and experimental writing is bound to contain a polemical element. 'The man of the avant-garde is in opposition to an existing system...An artistic creation is by its very novelty aggressive, spontaneously aggressive; it is directed against the public, against the bulk of the public; it causes indignation by its unusualness, which is itself a form of indignation.'"Martin Esslin, The Theatre of the Absurd, "Eugene Ionesco: Theatre and Anti-Theatre"

The name Bradford Cox is really all that I need to mention. Holiday song:

"The rebellion hoarded up day by day against the fate which they had generously offered by means of a silly ejaculation was searching for its explanation at that time and its roots in the hated family tree. It was not possible, you said to yourself, that such a vivid and intense feeling, such a deep and bribe-free anomaly could rise up out of nothingness and thrive entirely in the air like an unrooted orchid. An anonymous member of your lineage had experimented before you perhaps, had transmitted them them intact to you at the cost of darks years of compromise and dissimilation. What was maturing in you and giving forth no fruit could feel it germinating inside of itself, terrified, like a cancer that grows and strengthens itself in the midst of the blindness and the ignorance of others. That impulse, obscure and luminous at the same time, had hidden in it something like a grace perhaps, perhaps like a shame, sacrificing, in any case, its true imperative to the stupid and inconsistent approval of the clan. You, his heir, had managed to cut the bonds in time without managing to free yourself completely because of it. Family, social class, community, land: your life could not be anything else (you subsequently found out) except a slow and difficult road of breaking and dispossession." Juan Goytisolo, Marks of Identity

Geotic, Los Angeles' Will Weisenfeld of Baths ambient side project, put out a free record a few days after the new year,
Mend, which is purely magical. I think the first time I played it through I dematerialized or something for the duration of the record, some kind of psychic departure and intensive form of concentration. While you're at it, you should also check out his Baths project--a totally different and equally as engrossing experience. So glad to have a dude like this making so much music.

"The only thing that makes me write is the need, the overmastering need, at this moment more urgent ever it was in the past, to create a channel between my thoughts and my unsubstantial self, my shadow, that sinister shadow which at this moment is stretched across the wall in the light of the oil-lamp in the attitude of one studying attentively and devouring each word I write. This shadow surely understands better than I do. It is only to him that I can properly talk. Only he is capable of knowing me. He surely understands...It is my wish, when I have poured the juice--rather, the bitter wine--of my life down the parched throat of my shadow, to say to him, 'This is my life.'"Sadegh Hedayat, The Blind Owl

M.I.A capped of 2010 with a mix-tape composed one long 36-minute track of industrialized chaos, sample cross-sectioning, and heavy head-nod beat-making, smashing about 20 songs into the tumultuous runtime of the mix-tape, each minute of which is dizzying and manically joyous. While criticizing her LP this year may have been a hobby of a lot of the music critics out there, this mix-tape is on-point and dazzling and, if you're on of those whom felt she veered off track on her latest record, shows she never really went anywhere. 

Oh, and lastly: I can't even remember when Eric put this out, whether it was before the holidays, during, or after, but Eric Berglund, one half the Tough Alliance, and the brains and voice behind CEO did a rather awesone interpretation of Beyonce's "Halo" complete with Spanish guitars, blasting and rolling synths, strings, and horns. This is over-the-top in the best way possible.

Now for a aggregation of sorts of my personal heart-swoons with regards to images taken in, of, or from space throughout 2010, which I'll try to ensure aren't any of the ones I've previously included.

A sunspot image taken of the sun, showing the great ball of light more or less staring right back at us in a very creepy and somewhat absorbing manner. 

12th time I've seen this and it still blows my mind, its almost cartoonish fantasia-like accents. What it actually is: The Carina Nebula, a stellar nursey 75000 light years away, and what's going on in the image is a whole lot of chaotic activity at the top of a three-light-year-tall pillar of gas and dust being chomped and eaten away by the brilliant light of nearby stars.

Long exposure image of a magisterial face of a spiral galaxy deep within the Coma Cluster of galaxies 320 million light years thataway.

"In order to explain my life to my stooping shadow, I am obliged to tell a story. Ugh! How many stories about love, copulation, marriage, and death already exist, not one of which tells the truth! How sick I am of well-constructed plots and brilliant writing." Hedeyat, The Blind Owl.

Astronaut Nicholas toiling away on the International Space Station's seven-windowed observation deck, which apparently provides the most marvelous view of earth from this particular outpost.

Check out all 32 images

Last but most certainly not even close to least, Baths, as mentioned above, will be touring the US this spring with Braids, and they'll be stopping at San Francisco's Rickshaw Stop in Hayes Valley on Friday, March 4th. Were I not already committed for something that day, I'd be there. Braids, who finally put out their LP--Native Speaker--is a spellbindingly and startlingly good band out of Canada too eclectically intricate and stylistically woven to even begin to describe with any precision. The only true reason I mention this show to which I won't even be able to go is so I can reccommend Braids. Highly textural, deeply hypnotic, long serpentine and fluid songs capable of going on forever with elusive percussion, surging rhythms, sudden movements form hushedness to exuberance, and the gorgeous and at times wild vocals pushing it all forward--they're remarkable, an alien and otherworldly kind of good, and just beginning.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Reductio Ad Absurdum

"Once again, I'm aware that it's clumsy to put it all this way, but the point is that all of this and more was flashing through my head just in the interval of the small, dramatic pause Dr. Gustafson allowed himself before delivering his big reductio ad absurdum argument that I couldn't be a total fraud if I had just come out and admitted my fraudulence to him just now. I know that you know as well as I do how fast thoughts and associations can fly through your head. You can be in the middle of a creative meeting at your job or something, and enough material can rush through your head just in the little silences when people are looking over their notes and waiting for the next presentation that it would take exponentially longer than the whole meeting just to try to put a few seconds' silence's flood of thought into words. This is another paradox, that many of the most important impressions and thoughts in a person's life are ones that flash through your head so fast that fast isn't even the right word, they seem totally different from or outside of the regular sequential clock time we all live by, and they have so little relation to the sort of linear, one-word-after-another-word English we all communicate with each other with that it could easily take a whole lifetime just to spell out the contents of one split-second's flash of thoughts and connections, etc.--and yet we all seem to go around trying to use English (or whatever language out native country happens to use, it goes without saying) to try to convey to other people what we're thinking and to find out what they're thinking, when in fact deep down everybody knows that it's a charade and they're just going through the motions.
What goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one little tiny part of it at any given instant." DFW, Good Old Neon

My favorite picture of Dave, because of his
smile, the unfettered warmth of it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bradford Cox is Unleashing

Few contemporary musicians utilize their internet presence the way Bradford Cox does. Lynchpin and brainchild behind both Deerhunter and Atlas Sound, one being his full band project and the other being his solo venture, respectively, Bradford is renowned for uploading onto his blog countless gift tracks, demos, b side cuts, tracks that didn't and/or won't make albums, holiday songs (
e.g. Christmas Synths!). So I've always known the dude is not only absolutely musically brilliant but also pretty formidable. I knew he produced a lot of music, and I knew a lot of it was superb; it wasn't until over the past few days when I realized Bradford is unrivaled and sui genaris in terms of his prolificacy: over four days, he's released a Bedroom Databank collection in four volumes, all of which are beyond par and a hell of a lot more enjoyable than quite a lot of music out there right now. The fact that these are the dude's outtakes is obscenely admirable and should inject not a small amount of envy in a lot of musicians. The music just pours out of him, it seems. Below, I'll link to the blog and the four individual posts for each volume.

Bedroom Databank Volume 1
Bedroom Databank Volume 2
Bedroom Databank Volume 3
Bedroom Databank Volume 4

Per usual, these are all gratis. And uncontrollably gorgeous. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Never Forget We Are Are Round

& dense & packed & bent & spinning & full & enormous & nanoscopic & held together by dust & lovely.

Sicily and the rest of Italy's boot as seen from space all aglitter and lit up.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

88 Keys & More

In the spirit of John Cage, Germany's Volker Bertelmann, who records under the moniker Hauschka, paints haunting regional landscapes through the inventive and playful finger-workings of his prepared piano thanks to a bevy of acoustic sonic distortion. A prepared piano, for anyone unfamiliar, is piano with objects placed atop or in between the strings or on the hammers themselves, or in some cases having some strings deliberately detuned, so that the piano produces an unusual and idiosyncratic effect. Volker takes this idea to the extreme and practically unloads a thrift store worth of bric-a-brac and gewgaws on his pianos, flourishing his music with a lush and hypnotic layering of sounds, touches and often mysterious wintry textures, so much so that listening to his records gives one the sensation that you're listening to a full company playing, complete with percussion and everything. He stepped into NPR's studios last week and gave a small performance, showing the process going into the preparation and then the ensuing result, which result Volker says he enjoys because, as I've always admired, it puts something in motion and creates something going on that is, as the composer and the pianist, beyond his control.

Ping pong balls, tic tac containers, paperclips, leather, necklaces, foil, shish kebab skewers, anything and everything is on the table and on or in the piano for Volker's performances. The result is a sort of celebration of aleatoric brio.

In addition to performing two more or less improvised pieces, for which his prepared piano methodologies seems naturally destined, Hauschka also played a piece from his most recent LP, Foreign Landscapes, entitled "Mount Hood." Beyond his latest output, I recommend: everything he's ever recorded. The dude is magical.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On the Construct of Time:

I think, perhaps, that I'm a weird reader, at least in this current generational crop, in that I feel immeasurably comfortable and at home in books with devastatingly long and dense paragraphs; minimalism does nothing for me; simplicity does even less; and brevity is, in general, not the soul of wit. Brain-straining fiction is what I crave. Mentally, emotionally, psychically, physically exhausting fiction. I enjoy that sensation of being lost inside a particular fictive world, a world that is as layered, fractured, complicated, disastrous, miraculous, beautiful, mystifying, horrific, and frustrating as our own; and I don't mind one bit when time is completely obliterated. As I see it, if one is enjoying a particular book, why on earth would you want to leave that book? Why would you need room to breath somewhere in the pages? When I'm reading, when I'm deeply, emotionally, and intellectually invested in a work, the pages are the oxygen. I don't need anything else. The best books, for me, are the ones I don't want to end, the ones in which I could remain entrenched and submerged forever. In point of fact, I wholly understand that sensation, of time being nonexistent and being encased in a form of gripping, strangulating nowness in which everything that has ever happened and will happen is happening right now, to me, distilled and acute, like that tiny fly golden-hued and amber-stuck inside a chunk of sap on the trunk of an ancient tree. Attribute this to a background in continental philosophy and world theology as well as just heaps upon heaps of anxiety and insecurity. That said, it's no wonder that I love W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz, who--Sebald, that is--has cited Robert Walser, of whom I am devoted admirer, as a major influence. I will say right now: I do not believe in time. 

"Time, said Austerlitz in the observation room in Greenwhich, was by far the most artificial of all out inventions, and in being bound to the planet turning on its own axis was no less arbitrary than would be, say, a calculation based on the growth of trees or the duration required for a piece of limestone to disintegrate, quite apart from the fact that the solar day which we take as our guideline does not provide any precise measurement, so that in order to reckon time we have to devise an imaginary, average sun which has an invariable speed of movement and does not incline towards the equator in its orbit. If Newton thought, said Austerlitz, pointed through the window and down to the curve of the water around the Isle of Dogs glistening in the last of the daylight, if Newton really thought that time was a river like the Thames, the where is its source and into what sea does it finally flow? Every river, as we know, must have banks on both sides, so where, seen in those terms, where are the banks of time? What would be this river's qualities, qualities perhaps corresponding to those of water, which is fluid, rather heavy, and translucent? In what way do objects immersed in time differ from those left untouched by it? Why do we show the hours of light and darkness in the same circle? Why does time stand eternally still and motionless in one place, and rush headlong by in another? Could we not claim, said Austerlitz, that time itself has been nonconcurrent over the centuries and the millennia? It is not so long ago, after all, tht it began spreading out over everything. And is not human life in many parts of the earth governed by the weather, and thus by an unquantifiable dimension which disregards linear regularity, does not progress constantly forward but moves in eddies, is marked by episodes of congestion and irruption, recurs in ever-changing form, and evolved in no one knows what direction? Even in a metropolis ruled by time like London, said Austerlitz, it is still possible to be outside time, a state of affairs which until recently was almost as common in backward and forgotten areas of our own country as it used to be in the undiscovered continent overseas. The dead are outside time, the dying and all the sick at home or in hospitals, and they are not the only ones, for a certain degree of personal misfortune is enough to cut us off from the past and the future. In fact, said Austerlitz, I have never owned a clock of any kind, a bedside alarm or a pocket watch, let alone a wristwatch. A clock had always struck me as something ridiculous, a thoroughly mendacious object, perhaps because I have always resisted the power of time out of some internal compulsion which I myself have never understood, keeping myself apart from so-called current events in the hope, as I now think, said Austerlitz, that time will not pass away, has not passed away, that I can turn back and go behind it, and there I shall find everything as it once was, or more precisely I shall find that all moments of time have coexisted simultaneously, in which case none of what history tells us would be true, past events have not yet occurred but are waiting to do so at the moment when we think of them, although that, of course, opens up the bleak prospect of everlasting misery and neverending anguish."

That sounds like a mission statement.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

This Novel Slanders Mao Zedong

Practically all I have the time for these days are blog posts featuring quotes from books I'm reading. While the page count for the writing projects pile up into miniature towers of novelistic architecture of brutalist design, any idea of free time goes way out the window into the San Francisco Bay. So here's another, from Chinese novelist Yan Lianke's hysterical and gut-punchingly serious-indeed Serve the People!

"As things stood, matters had now swung from the deadly serious to the unimaginably ridiculous--to a level of absurdity beyond Wu Dawang's own comprehension, but still artistically consistent with the fantastical parameters of our story. Neither character, in fact, had grasped the full ludicrousness of the scene they were acting out, or of their roles within it. Perhaps, in very particular circumstances, emotional truth can shine only through the curtain of farce, while earnest restraint will always fail to ring true. Maybe absurdity is the state that all affairs of the heart are, finally, destined for: the ultimate and only test of worth." Lianke, Serve the People!

Truer words, never spoken. I long for more of Lianke's translations. His most recent novel, Dream of Ding Village, concerns an AIDS outbreak in China and was, once again, banned by the government for, and I quote, "dark descriptions, to exaggerate the harm and fear of AIDS." Apparently, there's a bright side to AIDS of which I've been unaware? It's been referred to as the Chinese answer to Camus' The Plague, and even were I unfamiliar with Lianke's work up to this point, that comparison alone would interest me, as the The Plague was, I always thought, Camus' best work.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Arcade Fire Comes In & Soothes

Not even with their music this time, either. In a recent interview with Pitchfork, brothers Win and Will Butler said a number of wise things which not only resonated with me in a big way but also apply in a sort of general way to the literary scene of the day and the ways in which major publishing houses, like major record labels, are floundering, and why I tend to find a lot of the current crop of literature written contemporaneously quite dull, unimaginative, self-involved, and artificial (and yes, there are more than a few exceptions to that last bit). A couple of the gemlike standouts below, but check out the whole interview at The Fork and not to mention their latest long player, which is a phenom of a record, a sonic event.

Pitchfork: A recent New Yorker piece used your success as an argument against major labels, what's your take on that?

Will Butler: Major labels just lost their way. It's like the housing bubble. They lost a sense of the fundamentals. They were just flailing about and throwing money around. They weren't thinking about putting out good music or embracing new things.

Win: When we were getting courted in the early days of Funeral, we would get taken to these dinners, and it was just like, "We'll take the dinner, but who's paying for this?" I guess Led Zeppelin is. But, at the end of the day, we were just like, "Would we be paying for other peoples' dinners?" It's such a weird thing.

It seems like the record industry made so much crazy money in the 1960s that everyone wanted to get in on it. Now it's just become very corporate. So all of these people who despise music end up being in charge.

And more, commenting on a kind of myopia amongst young people making art these days:

Will: We are ambitious, and I think that the general mode of almost all art these days is pretty small-focused. In literature and in film, the culture is all about these Miranda July-esque small moments observed in a lovely manner. Nothing against Miranda July, but I think that's the prevailing aesthetic.

I remember reading a book where the author was making fun of people who liked [Melville's] Bartleby, the Scrivener instead of Moby Dick-- like favoring a well-crafted short story instead of his flawed, epic thing. But I think we're definitely much more of a Moby Dick kind of band, and a lot of bands just aren't. And there are some beautiful small songs out there, and it would be nice if we could theoretically do a small album. Maybe we will. But the music we really reacted to growing up was stuff that was a little bigger and more major label.

Pitchfork: Like what?

Will: The original stuff that got me excited about music was Björk and Radiohead and the weirder spectrum of the bands that were popular and on MTV. Radiohead weren't small in their focus. It definitely seemed like they were talking about the world at large. I think the first indie music I heard was Neutral Milk Hotel and the Music Tapes, who were both Elephant 6 bands on Merge.

Still more, hinting at autonomy and the absolute silliness of art school, academia, and some of the absurd rules and theories occasionally found therein:

Pitchfork: On "Ready to Start", you sing about an emperor who "wears no clothes" that the kids "bow down to... anyway." Do you ever worry about reaching that kind of level of hero worship yourself?

Win: America's a big country. There're still way more people who've never heard of us. For me, the feeling of "Ready to Start" came from going to art school and meeting a lot of people who had really defined political ideas and rules about art. But I just wanted to make something in the world and worry about the rest of it later and not get too caught up in rules.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Literary City

While I won't be the first person to extol the untainted virtue of the United States as a democratic entity, I will be one of the first to stand up in defense of San Francisco. Like all cities, we've got our fair share of flaws and kinks to work out, but if there's any place to be frustrated about bureacratical flaws and democratic kinks (and not the fun kind of kinks) and general carelessness from time to time I'd rather be in San Francisco than anywhere else. I love no city in the United States like I love San Francisco. In fact, I don't love any cities in the United States other than San Francisco. San Francisco, in a matter of speaking, is my United States, as I think might the case with a lot of San Franciscian émigrés for whom San Francisco has been a kind of refuge city to which they can relocate in order to set up a life free of personal and ethical compromise and free of a kind of close-minded denigration, effrontery, and at times outright oppression. San Francisco is, for the most part, a warm, friendly, open place, hospitable to any kind of person you can imagine. We encourage and welcome all; and that's this city's draw. It's human constitution is about as freakishly eclectic as possible. We are one giant carbon-based portmanteau of living bodies and it's really quite breathtaking. When I first moved to California, after after a few months spent getting comfortable and learning my way around San Diego, I wrote a poem, the contents of which I'll spare you, called "California is a Country." The theme of that poem is patent to the title; I still believe that, too. California feels at times like an autonomous nation cleanly divorced from the rest of the nation, for better or worse. And San Francisco, while not the capitol of the state, has all the trappings and sensations of being the de facto capitol of this imagined nation-state of California. All of this is not to say California isn't, at the state, governmental, and occasional personal level, debilitatingly inept; but so is just about anywhere you go in the country. I'm not romanticizing things here. Part of loving something or someplace or someone involves acknowledging faults, weaknesses, pockmarks; and it's funny how, over time, those become the features you remember most and of which you're fondest.

But my reverence for San Francisco specifically is core-of-the-earth deep. There are myriad reasons for this. The one specific one about which this post is concerned is the literary lustre both past and present. Local artist Ian Huebert has given birth to a truly beautiful map composed up of literary quotes from the past written in and/or about San Francisco. SF locals will be able to pick them up as hard copies on 8th and Minna at Electric Works in SoMa for a modest 15 bones. Until then, just enjoy.

Click the picture for a larger, more detailed view; and also check out Ian's website for more of his
excellent work. At Ritual Roasters his work will be hanging from the walls all through the month of October, so that makes for a doubly excellent experience--Ritual coffee is rather inarguably superb.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

This Particular J.C. We Know Existed; He Sang, Played Jazz, & Left a Paper Trail

"'Eat your flan,' ordered Clara, still looking at Andrés out of the corner of her eye. His eyes he'd closed. He seemed to be awaiting either an electric shock or a miracle." Julio Cortázar, Final Exam.

The sentence has such power. We all, today, seem to be either impatiently awaiting either an electrokinetic jolt or a miracle or a universe-delivered sign storming in on a cloud of good tidings from one of the few thousand gods, none of which show any signs of coming or ever existing in the first place. 

In other related news, Cortázar, who's one of those deeply-missed authors whom I will recommend almost always, also evidently presaged the whole globular-insectile-frame-sunglasses craze we know see going on crazily today:
He, however, does it with a handsome flair and wise éclat that's hard to find these days amongst the notable notables, even just mugging for the photogs. Methinks it's the beard and that thick, wild hair. All that said, read Hopscotch. Go to the library and get something, anything by Cortázar and drink that elixir down. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

And but so

"Do you know where all the really sad stories I'm getting are coming from? They're coming, it turns out, from kids. Kids in college. I'm starting to think something is just deeply wrong with the youth of America. First of all, a truly disturbing number of them are interested in writing fiction. Truly disturbing. And more than interested, actually. You don't get the sorts of things I've been getting from people who are merely...interested. And sad, sad stories. Whatever happened to happy stories, Lenore? Or at least morals? I'd fall ravenously on one of the sort of didactic Salingerian solace-found-in-the-unlikeliest-places pieces I was getting by the gross at Hung and Peck. I'm concerned about today's kids. These kids should be out drinking beer and seeing films and having panty raids and losing virginities and writhing to suggestive music, not making up long, sad, convoluted stories. And they are as an invariable rule simply atrocious typists. They should be out having fun and learning to type. I'm a little worried. Really."
David Foster Wallace, The Broom of the System

I won't sit here and belabor the point: yes, David Foster Wallace is and was incommensurably amazing and you should read everything he wrote, like, five times and then five more times. But on a side note: I sincerely miss the pre-nineties Vintage Contemporary softbacks with the cheesy art-deco meets pop-art for these pseudosurreal covers which pointed at something suggestively deep, emotional, painful, or harrowing possibly to be found in the text. I seriously miss those. Like this: Cormac McCarthy's early novel,and one of his best, far better than his smash hit 
The RoadSuttree.