Saturday, May 30, 2009
The universe as the site of lingering cosmic
catastrophes – points of conflict in the text,
through which it’s impossible to see the stars.
Dark spots that shade the eyes. “This eternity
of the human being among the stars is a melancholy
thing… There exists a world where a man follows a
road that, in the other world, his double did not take.”
The routinization of the suffering that comes with
having a soul. The martyr’s pain is repeated in
the same moment over and over again at infinite sites
scattered through the universe, pockets of darkness between stars.
Life as the monotonous flow of an hourglass
that eternally empties and turns itself over, teaching
yes, but always the same lesson, the new sand is
always old the old sand always new.
Red and green Aurora in Fairbanks, Alaska: photo by Milla Zinkova, 2007
Night bombing: photo by Aljazeera
Friday, May 29, 2009
Following is Haruki Murakami's Speech on being awarded The Jerusalem Prize.
He gave this speech in the presence of Shimon Peres, President of Israel, and other dignitaries.
「Always on the side of the egg」
By Haruki Murakami
I have come to Jerusalem today as a novelist, which is to say as a
professional spinner of lies.
Of course, novelists are not the only ones who tell lies. Politicians do
it, too, as we all know. Diplomats and military men tell their own kinds of
lies on occasion, as do used car salesmen, butchers and builders. The lies
of novelists differ from others, however, in that no one criticizes the
novelist as immoral for telling them. Indeed, the bigger and better his
lies and the more ingeniously he creates them, the more he is likely to be
praised by the public and the critics. Why should that be?
My answer would be this: Namely, that by telling skillful lies - which is
to say, by making up fictions that appear to be true - the novelist can
bring a truth out to a new location and shine a new light on it. In most
cases, it is virtually impossible to grasp a truth in its original form and
depict it accurately. This is why we try to grab its tail by luring the
truth from its hiding place, transferring it to a fictional location, and
replacing it with a fictional form. In order to accomplish this, however,
we first have to clarify where the truth lies within us. This is an
important qualification for making up good lies.
Today, however, I have no intention of lying. I will try to be as honest as
I can. There are a few days in the year when I do not engage in telling
lies, and today happens to be one of them.
So let me tell you the truth. A fair number of people advised me not to
come here to accept the Jerusalem Prize. Some even warned me they would
instigate a boycott of my books if I came.
The reason for this, of course, was the fierce battle that was raging in
Gaza. The UN reported that more than a thousand people had lost their lives
in the blockaded Gaza City, many of them unarmed citizens - children and
Any number of times after receiving notice of the award, I asked myself
whether traveling to Israel at a time like this and accepting a literary
prize was the proper thing to do, whether this would create the impression
that I supported one side in the conflict, that I endorsed the policies of
a nation that chose to unleash its overwhelming military power. This is an
impression, of course, that I would not wish to give. I do not approve of
any war, and I do not support any nation. Neither, of course, do I wish to
see my books subjected to a boycott.
Finally, however, after careful consideration, I made up my mind to come
here. One reason for my decision was that all too many people advised me
not to do it. Perhaps, like many other novelists, I tend to do the exact
opposite of what I am told. If people are telling me — and especially if
they are warning me — "don't go there," "don't do that," I tend to want to
"go there" and "do that." It's in my nature, you might say, as a novelist.
Novelists are a special breed. They cannot genuinely trust anything they
have not seen with their own eyes or touched with their own hands.
And that is why I am here. I chose to come here rather than stay away. I
chose to see for myself rather than not to see. I chose to speak to you
rather than to say nothing.
This is not to say that I am here to deliver a political message. To make
judgments about right and wrong is one of the novelist's most important
duties, of course.
It is left to each writer, however, to decide upon the form in which he or
she will convey those judgments to others. I myself prefer to transform
them into stories - stories that tend toward the surreal. Which is why I do
not intend to stand before you today delivering a direct political message.
Please do, however, allow me to deliver one very personal message. It is
something that I always keep in mind while I am writing fiction. I have
never gone so far as to write it on a piece of paper and paste it to the
wall: Rather, it is carved into the wall of my mind, and it goes something
"Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will
always stand on the side of the egg."
Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will
stand with the egg. Someone else will have to decide what is right and what
is wrong; perhaps time or history will decide. If there were a novelist
who, for whatever reason, wrote works standing with the wall, of what value
would such works be?
What is the meaning of this metaphor? In some cases, it is all too simple
and clear. Bombers and tanks and rockets and white phosphorus shells are
that high, solid wall. The eggs are the unarmed civilians who are crushed
and burned and shot by them. This is one meaning of the metaphor.
This is not all, though. It carries a deeper meaning. Think of it this way.
Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable
soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of
each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting
a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: It is The System. The System is
supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and
then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others — coldly,
I have only one reason to write novels, and that is to bring the dignity of
the individual soul to the surface and shine a light upon it. The purpose
of a story is to sound an alarm, to keep a light trained on The System in
order to prevent it from tangling our souls in its web and demeaning them.
I fully believe it is the novelist's job to keep trying to clarify the
uniqueness of each individual soul by writing stories — stories of life and
death, stories of love, stories that make people cry and quake with fear
and shake with laughter. This is why we go on, day after day, concocting
fictions with utter seriousness.
My father died last year at the age of 90. He was a retired teacher and a
part-time Buddhist priest. When he was in graduate school, he was drafted
into the army and sent to fight in China. As a child born after the war, I
used to see him every morning before breakfast offering up long,
deeply-felt prayers at the Buddhist altar in our house. One time I asked
him why he did this, and he told me he was praying for the people who had
died in the war.
He was praying for all the people who died, he said, both ally and enemy
alike. Staring at his back as he knelt at the altar, I seemed to feel the
shadow of death hovering around him.
My father died, and with him he took his memories, memories that I can
never know. But the presence of death that lurked about him remains in my
own memory. It is one of the few things I carry on from him, and one of the
I have only one thing I hope to convey to you today. We are all human
beings, individuals transcending nationality and race and religion, fragile
eggs faced with a solid wall called The System. To all appearances, we have
no hope of winning. The wall is too high, too strong — and too cold. If we
have any hope of victory at all, it will have to come from our believing in
the utter uniqueness and irreplaceability of our own and others' souls and
from the warmth we gain by joining souls together.
Take a moment to think about this. Each of us possesses a tangible, living
soul. The System has no such thing. We must not allow The System to exploit
us. We must not allow The System to take on a life of its own. The System
did not make us: We made The System.
That is all I have to say to you.
I am grateful to have been awarded the Jerusalem Prize. I am grateful that
my books are being read by people in many parts of the world. And I am glad
to have had the opportunity to speak to you here today.
February 15, 2009
The dramatic change in relation to Iran was more impressive, but still not what drew the most attention, at least my attention. What was absolutely new was the tone.
Obama spoke with a humility and respect unheard of in American presidents. It is understandable that he would speak of a "new beginning" with the "Islamic Republic," using name and surname, instead of the "axis of evil," as Bush used to say. Obama was elected to invert the rhetoric he inherited from the previous administration.
But he, at least in this video, inverted the usual discourse of all recent U.S. leaders. His tone was not imperial, it was colloquial, as if he were recording a home video on a trip to send to friends back home.
It was more a video by Malia and Sasha's Dad than by the all-powerful occupant of the Oval Office.
Sure, speeches are speeches, sure, they need to be accompanied by actions to effect the changes implied in the tone adopted in the video, sure, there are immense difficulties ahead in Iran/U.S. relations (not to mention the global crisis and all the other problems that make President Lula say he prays more for Obama than for himself).
But for a U.S. president to abandon the preaching tone his predecessors have usually used towards the world may open avenues whose dimensions and consequences are difficult to anticipate. That that is something worth experiencing is beyond doubt.
— Clóvis Rossi, Folha de São Paulo, March 22, 2009
"...Dylan then recounts a recent side excursion he made from Minnesota to Manitoba. 'I went to see Neil Young's house in Winnipeg,' he says. 'I just felt compelled. I wanted to see his bedroom. Where he looked out of the windows. Where he dreamed. Where he walked out of the door every day. Wanted to see what's around his neighborhood in Winnipeg. And I did just that.'
'How did you do that?'
'I don't know,' he answers. 'Somebody found out for me where he used to live. I mean, there's no marker or anything. And some people were living in his house. He lived in an upstairs duplex with his mother. I wanted to walk the steps that Neil walked every day.'
'Does he know you did that?' I ask.
'I don't think so,' Dylan says with a grin. 'I was meaning to send him a card afterward and tell him that. That I'd been there. Where he used to hang out and where he started out. Neil, I respect him so much.'"
— from "Bob Dylan's America" by Douglas Brinkley, Rolling Stone, Issue 1078, May 14, 2009
Cassiopeia 1 (c. 1960) Estate of Joseph Cornell
A child's things
speak of the shock
Untitled (Soap Bubble set) (1936) Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford
the magic prism
a child's vision
of bits of this
and bits of that
pieces of cloth
Untitled (Penny Arcade Portrait of Lauren Bacall) (1945-46) Collection Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Bergman, Chicago
The child grown
to note down
Untitled (Paul and Virginia) (c.1946-48) Collection Mr. and Mrs. E.A. Bergman, Chicago
for the materials
he was driven
that occupied him
Grand Hotel Semiramis (1956) (The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation)
spools of thread
in the dead
five and dimes
in the teeth
of a Woolworth's
Untitled (Solar set) (c. 1956-58) Collection Donald Varshan, New York
his "shadow boxes"--
and out --
in his dreamgirl
check-out girl --
seen in Food
Piled up hair
but the same
Untitled (Pharmacy) (c.1943) Collection Mrs. Marcel Duchamp, Paris
out of nowhere
into the clouds
in his suburban
Untitled (Grand Owl Habitat) (c.1946) Collection Mr. and Mrs. Richard H. Kaplin, Toledo, Ohio
the moment of witness
to a condition
by a star
a brief shading
on the side
of a building
Toward the Blue Peninsula (1951-52) Collection Daniel Varenne, Geneva
the abrupt rising
of a flock
into the air
of classical music
heard on the
on the bus
smile the ineffable
of being alive
as if a dark
with wondrous clarity
he so loved
Verso of Cassiopeia 1
Dec. 9, 1948 (Wednesday)
the "all over" feeling that makes of the incidental a never ceasing wonder and spectacle of the spiritual
(diary entry from Joseph Cornell's Theater of the Mind: Selected Diaries, Letters and Files)
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
As in that grey exurban wasteland in Gatsby
When the white sky darkens over the city
Of ashes, far from the once happy valley,
This daze spreads across the blank faces
Of the inhabitants, suddenly deprived
Of the kingdom’s original promised gift.
Did I say kingdom when I meant place
Of worship? Original when I meant
Damaged in handling? Promised when
I meant stolen? Gift when I meant
Trick? Inhabitants when I meant slaves?
Slaves when I meant clowns
Who have wandered into test sites? Test
Sites when I meant contagious hospitals?
Contagious hospitals when I meant clouds
Of laughing gas? Laughing gas
When I meant tears? No, it’s true,
No one should be writing poetry
In times like these, Dear Reader,
I don’t have to tell you of all people why.
It’s as apparent as an attempted
Punch in the eye that actually
Catches only empty air — which is
The inside of your head, where
The green ritual sanction
Of the poem has been cancelled.
The Great Gatsby (first edition): F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925 (dust jacket illustration by Francis Cugat)
Entrance to Happy Valley, Tennessee: photo by Brian Stansberry, 2008
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Saturday night kitties loll about bathing
in milky blue flickering tv light and shade
as if it were not the end of the world after all
chimneysweep girl Dark Sister furiously
pecking at herself then abruptly pausing
to stare off into deep space quizzical while
Princey the great sleek black head potentate
laps daintily at his own snowy breastfur
and glances up through slit eyes sphinxlike
across the temple of the disinterested moment
at the advertised world apocalypse
Cat on yellow pillow: Franz Marc, 1912 (Staaatliche Galerie Moritzburg)
Friday, May 15, 2009
Five A.M. on East Fourteenth I’m out to eat
The holiday littered city by my feet a jewel
In the mire of the night waits for the light
Getting and spending and day’s taxi cry The playful
Waves of the East River move toward their date
With eternity down the street, the slate sky
In Tompkins Square Park prepares for the break
Through of lean horses of morning I
Move through these streets like a lamplighter
Touch ragged faces with laughter by my knowledge
Of tragic color on a pavement at the edge
Of the city Softly in the deep East River water
Of dreams in which my long hair flows
Slow waves move Of my beginnings, pauses
34th Street: photo by Rudy Burckhardt, 1978
Pedestrians, New York City: photo by Rudy Burckhardt, 1935 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
Tree align lamp post
Pass boots with legs
Eating aluminium book
Slim black pant hoodie
Mr. Cool Larry Love
White hat vest slack
Slick new pass white
Endless talk protect
Cover leaf building
Sunday Friday best
Shades façade strike
Final minute endless
Motor bark command
Flower cut in earth
Cursing stiff spring city
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Stories Told by the Shores of the Lakes of Africa
While the cash-green palm fronds sway, tears round as coconuts tumble out of their eyes and roll down their gleaming breasts, finally toppling over when they reach the nipples, like big drops hitting the headlights of a Porsche streaming down the Pacific Coast Highway in the rain.
Character Is Fate
God was a woman. Mary was, frankly, God, John said. Yes, she was God; that was all there was to it. Falling in love with her had been like a religious conversion, John said. But you should not make a god out of another person. John was later to find this out the hard way.
Life Among the Canyons
Life among the canyons of Los Angeles. Explorers in jodhpurs and jungle hats drink gin slings on the porches of huts built on stilts. Cars pour up the freeway in the rain like homing salmon, ahead of the full lash of storm tilting in from the Pacific. Arriving home, we hear the women laugh. They run to fasten down the mats and hatches of batting and bamboo, their skin-covered breasts flashing as the water streams down them. We will give them diamonds and record contracts and they will sit for paintings. Our portraits of them will end up in a museum whose architectural character is geometrical and unfriendly. The curator will be twenty-nine years old and from the East.
Death, Revenge and The Profit Motive
Death is good, revenge is a waste of time, and who ever thought up the profit motive didn’t understand either of those things, John said, tipping his head back to pour another drink into it. He was paying twelve hundred dollars a month to keep Mary in a glass and redwood shack with a hot tub in the hippest canyon in town, he said. And now she wouldn’t even talk to him, and – he said – he was dying. “But only to get even!”
Heartbreak Hotel is located among the abandoned oil derricks of Venice, California, on Feb. 15, 1954. It is a small bungalow with a white picket fence. A man in a dirty undershirt stands in an open window staring at us. Suddenly a chill wind blows across the oily surface of the grey canal. We look up into the sky, which has no color at all. It frightens us and we turn to leave but as we begin to run, our first footsteps are drowned in the loud strains of “Heartbreak Hotel,” which the man in the window is singing in the window of the Heartbreak Hotel.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
First cold winter twilights despite this
week’s Richmond refinery fire
never more perfect even the
burned and corrupt air stunning
saffron violet orange indigo
becoming blood red as sun descends
with a delayed shudder or retarded
tremor into ocean fire
and night begins to close in
over the whole sky from other
(eastern) end -- a deep blue bowl
or dish inverted convex
glass dome extruded
pyrex lid over boundless
now starless ozone
depleted spaces of end
times -- last hundred years of
human habitation? -- rendering
in view of coming loss
earth in ever more damaged form
ever more beautiful than before
Sunset--Ponzalla, Italy: photo by Joolz (2004)
Monday, May 11, 2009
Students walk back and forth
Between large, squarish buldings,
Carrying their books.
The plastic trays on the
Laps of the passengers
Jiggle up and down.
At 3 a.m., television tells
its secrets to the
Wiry pubic hairs
scratch against each other
deep in the condominium.
A hot dog paper blows across
the infield, passing into
shadows near third base.
The hanged man’s voice
emerges from the dress
of the secretary.
At night the noises of
make a difficult muzak.
He tilts his head
back, and pours his
drink into it.
The cars go by
just like they did
Sun Bowl pregame show, U. of Minnesota marching band: photo by Michael Hicks, 1999
225 South Sixth, Minneapolis: photo by Mulad, 2005
An animated traffic light (clicking the image stops or continues the animation): Manuel Strehl, 2005.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
into the smoothly breaking day
the whole organism surged
so that nothingness was
but a small blurt upon the All:
Eternity bathed this instant in
as into the Valley of Death
rode the Ten Thousand,
came the curiosity seekers.
Scale one to thousand volume: by 84 user, 2008. (Click on the boxes to navigate three dimensional orders of magnitude.)
Saturday, May 9, 2009
What I liked about this film was the culture-historical period detail. That is, what I liked was the fairly uncompromising commitment to telling a story accurately, without the stooping into explanatory obviousness that is normally de rigeur when telling a story about historical events in what remains, after all, a culturally particularized/insular as well as literally (as Gertrude Stein insisted) an island nation, England, for an American audience.
That lack of stooping came as something of a surprise, as writer Peter Morgan's preceding two Great Hits, The Queen and Frost/Nixon, went over so well on these shores.
This time however his story, adapted from a David Peace novel, is not a transatlantic readymade; in fact, it's the opposite, a transatlantic conundrum. Americans likely just won't get it. I mean, faced with the illegible mélange of cultural signals contained in terms like "Derby County" and "Brighton and Hove Albion," who's got the time? To, like figure out the meaning?
At the screener preview I saw, before the lights went down, someone commented/boasted, "I don't know anything about English football--what shape is the ball?"
Anthony Quinn, writing in the Independent, captures what's good about The Damned United: the historical specificity.
This film transported me right back to the Saturday-night television of my childhood. It majestically conjures that Match of the Day era of kipper ties, bouffant hair, sheepskin coats, Jimmy Hill's beard, orange footballs, and pitches that looked like the battlefields of Flanders. Yet it also brings to mind another 1970s favourite of Saturday nights on the Beeb: come on, don't say you've forgotten Mike Yarwood's impressions. In among his Jimmy Saviles, Harold Wilsons and Bob Monkhouses there would usually be a skit on Brian Clough, whose campy Northern drawl Yarwood caught brilliantly and, as I thought then, unimprovably. Michael Sheen's impersonation has changed my mind.
The film, far easier on Clough than the projective, overwrought Peace novel, and in fact far more comedy than tragedy, has a soft "redemptive" (i.e. happy) ending in which two great actors, the versatile comic impersonator Michael Sheen, playing Clough, and the always commanding Tim Spall, playing Peter Taylor, struggle their way, by means of many cuts, through an "I-love-you-man" scene that is entirely unearned by the rest of the film. Along with an earlier out-of-nowhere attempt to portray the endlessly self-confident, nay call it arrogant, Clough's sudden desolation in the loss of his dignity at the bitter end of his 44-day stint as Leeds United manager--we find him alone on a hotel room bed, late at night, drunken and unassuaged, phoning his perceived adversary, Don Revie (Colm Meaney)--this Spall/Sheen love scene suggests something out of a different kind of movie: perhaps the one that would have been made by Stephen Frears, who turned this script down.
But Tom Hooper has picked it up and what he's made of it is for the most part a belter.
In this deleted scene: Brian Clough (Sheen) admonishes Derby County players at half time, ordering them to consume a bottle of brandy.
RATING: In the Crab Nebula, where I viewed this screener, all films get the same rating: a trillion stars.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Echoes rebound in the ancient ball court
In the arena along the storied river
The hangdog crowd disperses having seen
Anger erupt on the ancient ball court
The last fragmenting of a human dream
A final F-bomb dropped on a machine
Didier Drogba/Ledley King: Tom Clark, 2008Great ballcourt, Chichen Itza: photo by Laura Scudder, 2005
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Stepping down was like being born
out of the flank
of a bus, like Dionysus from
Zeus. The guts of the pavement
lay open under flags and gazers.
As we passed the bank and needle,
still on the bus, you gazed
out and then it seemed I was Dionysus
and you Diana or another in the bays.
I rushed towards you as if Zeus
heard you when you turned to me, amazed,
and said “It’s strange to see the world through
Office (London bus RT 3871): photo by Les Chatfield, 2008
A love that is not pardoned
But burns the hand that touches
Tears her form out of the corner
Something presses me her voice
Across the sea a light is lifted
A woman walks to the edge
Of the mud in the street clinging to her packages
In the car of the sea these rusted shapes
Take up the night with a music like stone
The door will not close
Smoke The cotton
Stuffing of the room
Flatness under my feet walking around the room
A weight on my tongue
The stone fenders are close to the water
At any step you might fall
Things are going badly now
Nothing swims up through
The metal that holds the muddy flowers
There is dirt in every space and a cold wind
Comes off the sea
Pleats of the bedclothes make a hole in the light
A dirty shadow on the door above your head
And the wall bends up losing you
We go at different speeds
Side by side while you sleep
It is grey ahead where I am going
It is too hot
All rooms beat constantly
Something is the matter with the doors but no one stops
We rush through the joys that were there
The same weight of confusion leads me
To pick up everything I find
I turn this over in my hand and find you
Your hands are behind your head
Forming a grave on the pillows
Reality only listens when your words are true
How much longer can the door be found
By picking strings
To a chamber where a vestment
Never speaks until the door to the other side
Upward through the mud to the spoons
Has been closed
A chorus of swine lets loose
In a grey corner the rats continue to sing
Most of this is useless
An insane need for genuflecting
The night flaps
I stand at the edge of you
Is there a switch to be turned
To end this bluff against music
Which outshines the diamond in the slush
All of us wanted to have
Are there green parks where bicycles still glide
We sat on the hills quarreling
As you undress the perfection
Of hair marking each part of you
That seeps down through
This maze of pictures
I carry like sections of cloth d’or
In ancient paintings there is a duel in which
Wings beating in something like hay
Beyond which the mystery is encountered again
She replaces the packages under her arms
And walks through the door
5 Doors (1): Gerhart Richter, 1967 (Museum Ludwig, Cologne)
1 Door (Test-piece): Gerhart Richter, 1967
5 Doors (2): Gerhart Richter, 1967
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Monday, May 4, 2009
Do not try to adopt me
I am not a pigmy soothed
Boy or baby hitchhiker saint
What is wrong suddenly
Is that I swallow a cold
Blast of air, I mean fright
Spill coffee on my book
And hear the kinks
In the great universe
The warp in the coffin
Phantom men fly out of
Anywhere in this world