Friday, August 27, 2010

Around the World in 80 Songs

Song 2: “God’s Child” – David Byrne and Selena


This is what I remember about Montréal: Spring Break 2001, drinking Turkish coffee (by way of Beirut) at Salam’s flat. Later drinking Porto at the bar. Walking in the snow to photograph a statue of an angel. Ordering lattes in French. Sitting on a bed looking at old photographs of a 6'4" Lebanese boy and his refugee family. Laughter about emailed photographs of a cow slowly loading on an outdated computer in Ukraine. If only I could have produced Björk wearing a cowboy hat with the reticulated patterns of a giraffe, then we would still be friends today.


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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Around the World in 80 Songs

Song 1: “Teardrop” – Massive Attack


In August 1998, I presented a paper at the International Society for the Study of European Ideas conference “Twentieth Century European Narratives: Tradition and Innovation” at the University of Haifa in Israel. One day, while sitting on the beach drinking beer, eating watermelon with feta cheese, and chatting with other conference participants, I heard this song for the second or third time. In the sun next to the green, green Mediterranean, with blisters on my tired feet.

Friday, August 6, 2010

8:15

ChangelingNobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe writes about Hiroshima, moral responsibility, outrage, and aging in today's The New York Times op-ed section. It's an oblique essay about the travesty of Japanese policy that allows the US to maintain a military base on Okinawa. It is also ostensibly about the bombing of Hiroshima sixty-five years ago--the event that forever links the ethical responsibilities of the US to Japan--when 30% of Hiroshima's population was immediately and without warning incinerated. Vaporized.

I can't understand such an event, or the thought processes and decision-making that led to it. I don't believe in the rational lie that claims the Japanese would have fought to their deaths regardless of the manner of those deaths. No society--even one under a totalitarian regime--would blindly follow a trajectory of such abject self-annihilation. Yet charging pure and simple racism diminishes the argument altogether.

In some regards, I "prefer" the Holocaust--a still-visible wound winding its way across Central Europe, where piles of ash and dust still remain. In Hiroshima, there's nothing left except perhaps a shadow permanently imprinted on a brick wall. And a broken clock ever indicating the end of time: 8:15.