Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Capitalism

Shopkeeper brandishes gun to prevent "looters"--otherwise known as desperate and traumatized survivors--from foraging for food and supplies. The only justice would be this fascist pig dying of starvation because he no longer has customers. Death to all tyrants. Eat the rich.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Eulogy for Lou Reed

I didn't know Lou Reed. No, I never met the man. Yet I am certain, because of the authenticity I perceived in his songs, that I nevertheless knew him, albeit through his work. And we should ask: isn't that indeed the only way we know anyone?

There are too many works to list them all. I'm not even referring to all the songs from his recording career but rather to those songs that came to mean something to me. Although I had heard "Walk on the Wild Side" while still fairly young, Lou Reed will always be to me the Lou Reed of the late 1980s and early 90s. The maturity of his voice and the severity of his gaze always take me back to my undergraduate days.

During that time I was listening to a lot of Suzanne Vega as well, who seemed never to pause from praising her main singing inspiration. I remember driving home down Cooper Street after class when I first heard "Dirty Blvd." from New York (1989) played on the local public radio station. It felt New York, which I had visited in the spring for the second time, so of course I was an expert. And I was in love with the danger, seediness, and trash of a New York City that had yet to be cleaned up.

In 1990 Songs for Drella hit me upside my head. It was the first time I actually purchased any work by Lou Reed. I felt like I had made my first purchase of art. I listened to the two-track every chance I got, forcing every person I considered an artist or writer or creative genius to listen to it with me. I came close to ending it with one of my oldest friends because she found the album irritating. My introduction to Andy Warhol's life was through this album as if through some strange triangulation. I can't see one of his soup cans or grainy prints of Marilyn without feeling that music shake itself loose in my bones and come back to life.

And then there are his collaborations with Laurie Anderson, whose career I've followed since still in high school. I attended her Dallas performance on the Strange Angels (1989) tour, which was the first time I saw her live, so I purchased her 1994 Bright Red as soon as I could. "In Our Sleep" with its monotone vocals and heavy delay/echo percussion effects still enchants and mesmerizes. It was one of the first tracks I sought out after learning that he had died.

When I lived in Japan, I, too, relished the rerelease of "Perfect Day" on the soundtrack to Trainspotting. It helped create the perfection of my time there, a perfection of the simple as inhabited authentically. My meditation mantra be here now, be nowhere can be traced back to a time when this track was in heavy rotation on a small jam box sitting on the tatami floor.

As I age, the time period of the late sixties and early seventies come to define my aesthetics more and more. Don't get me wrong. I will always be a child of the eighties. I will die with gel in my hair. But the years between 1967 and 1974 mark a watershed. During this period we find both The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967) and Transformer (1972). I've been listening to both quite a bit over the past couple of years. Even more so these past couple of weeks.

It doesn't matter whether Brian Eno's statement--that everyone who bought the first Velvet Underground album started a band--is true or false. There still and nevertheless is some degree of authenticity in Lou Reed's voice, his style, his manner, his way of inhabiting his voice. He seems to always be saying, I'm saying the truth as it is. There's no artifice despite all the artificial trappings of it all. No boasting, no swagger necessary. And you're free to do the same. Perhaps what Eno meant is that he made authenticity in music both a possibility and a virtue.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Naïveté: The Theater of Outrage

German Chancellor Merkel is naive if she believes that the US is not spying on her. And she is naive if she believes that we Americans don't already assume that Germany, too, is spying on the US. There seems to be quite a bit of naiveté affected among Americans and Europeans these days. One should always assume that one is being watched. Conversely, one should never be so naive as to believe that one's words or actions are worthy of surveillance. That would just make you a megalomaniac, and you don't have the time for that nonsense. Instead, we all need to focus on our performances of outrage and naiveté. It would be a shame to disappoint.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

... death is both the trace we dread and the loss of all trace.
 - Edmond Jabès

Monday, September 16, 2013

In the Trees

Here's a photo of me with my head literally in the trees. The clouds would've been too easy, too cliched.

I don't know how writers do it. No, not writing. Writing, for me, is the sometimes overwhelmingly easy thing. But doing all those other things while writing is what I find perplexing. I've barely managed to read in the past few months, and even posting something here has proved erratic at best. I feel my world slipping away.

Half of me feels like such a dullard and such a slacker. Thankfully, my delight in writing keeps some of that anxiety in check. I truly love the process and gift of it, and it awes me each minute I devote to it. I, however, still have a ways to go with not panicking in those moments I decide to take a break from it. Like today. Especially knowing that this week also contains Third Thursday, when I get together with another writer and work on more creative projects. This week is devoted to a short story and a translation of a poem.

At least coffee will be drunk regardless of our successes. Success is writing in the first place.

Friday, August 16, 2013

An Excerpt from the Utterly Brilliant Book I'm Writing on Autographesis, the As If, and Blanchovian Phenomenology

For art to be truly free to achieve its goal of total freedom and to escape the normative exigencies that have shackled it throughout much of history (that is, for example, art represents nature or art expresses an emotion), art must, in the end, be free for uselessness.
I need to find someone who can embroider this as a sampler for me to hang over my bed.

Monday, August 12, 2013

El sexo de los ángeles

I'm always up for a good ménage à trois film, but, to be blunt, there hasn't been one until now. Last night I watched Spanish director Xavier Villaverde's El sexo de los ángeles [The Angels' Sex--please notice that a proper translation is missing from the titillating "English" poster] (2012). At first, I was concerned about liking it solely in comparison to similar films that traced the same plot lines, but I think it was actually a good film on its own.

The story follows the arc of three relationships: Bruno and Carla's, Bruno and Rai's, and Carla and Rai's. First is the pretext of the somewhat strained three-year relationship between university student Bruno and photographer Carla. They live together in her flat, which is begrudgingly provided by her parents.

Carla's father is never seen, but we hear his voice several times as he unconvincingly offers excuses for not meeting his wife and daughter for lunch. The mother's denial and rationalizations for her husband's long-term affair provides the emotional core of the film and serves as the undercurrent to Carla's emotional state. She does not want to be like her mother, and she is always provoking her mother to accept the truth of her marriage. The parents don't like Bruno, who they feel is a mooch. The opening scene mirrors the several scenes with the absent father/husband in that Bruno misses a lunch date with Carla and her parents because he's been mugged after stopping to watch some dancers on the beach.

One of those dancers is Rai, who because of his martial arts training comes to Bruno's aid. An intense emotional bond develops between the two men as Rai nurses Bruno back to health and Bruno provides his new friend a place to crash. The two men are lovely to watch, and their relationship is nicely understated. Best of all, this is not a "coming-out" film.

Even though the film employs the narrative structure of new romance, this plot is really a means to highlight the growing emotional maturity of Carla, who serves as the emotional fulcrum of the film. We get to watch her navigate through the minefield between her parents' failed marriage and the sexual easiness of her peers. And despite the movie poster's suggestive sizing, this is much more than a story about a woman who takes two lovers.

Two factors are outstanding: the characters' desire to be mature and the naturalism of the acting itself. Few things are more irritating to me than to see adults behaving as if they were spoiled children. Thankfully, Villaverde leaves the histrionics to Hollywood. And such naturalism, which is just as much a function of casting and directing as it is of acting, remains foreign to most American films, in which everything is overly staged, including the staginess of the acting.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Oblivion Oblivion Oblivion

This spring I read the collection of short stories entitled The Cannibal Night by Mexican author Luis Jorge Boone, expertly translated by George Henson. These stories reminded me about what was best about magical realism, although I might rather classify them as magical hyperrealism or magical expressionism. In each, the narrative participates in its own undoing as characters are left making the most of their diminished worlds. Here is something I wrote about one story simply titled "Oblivion."
“Oblivion” seems to be written precisely as a puzzling meditation on translation. Not only does a senseless car crash deprive the protagonist’s life from meaning, not only does this meaningless act literally come crashing into her world, but as readers we’re confronted with the destruction wrought by this very word itself: oblivion. The protagonist senses some inalienable significance to this term that she is incapable of discovering despite her methodical attempts to translate it from its English into her Spanish. Repeated throughout the story as a mantra bereft of meaning—Oblivion. Oblivion. Oblivion.—until the word becomes true avoidance and obscureness of memory, of pain, of forgetfulness and the subsequent oblivion that time provides by reasserting meaning upon that life that lives on through oblivion as oblivion. Eventually the shibboleth takes on the verbal quality our heroine ascribes it, dissolving the wreck and her response to it as well as the text itself into pure illegibility. Boone’s story is both a refraction and a deflection of narration—a surface phenomenon upon the story’s setting, its theme. “Oblivion” marks the untrackable traces of language’s impossibility to both provide and not provide meaning to our experiences.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Omit Thy Fog Riot


When writing about Surrealism and automatism, what better way to conduct research than to do a little automatic writing and some exquisite corpse exercises? I mean, anybody can read an article and summarize it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

#Cities

When I was an undergraduate in the late 1980s, I wrote a series of extremely short narratives that I called "shorter stories." Now it seems everyone, including Lydia Davis, is famous for doing something similar. Alberto Chimal wrote a series of short narratives about cities on Twitter that has recently been translated by the great Spanish translator George Henson. It reminds me of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities. Here is a small sampling.
No one knows if the city of N really exists or if perhaps it’s another city, disguised, with another name. #Cities 
The city of Ñ isn’t where they say. Some say it doesn’t exist; others, that its inhabitants exist and are known by their language. #Cities 
From Alberto Chimal's The Cities of the Ordered Chain, trans. George Henson. You can read the entire series in a few minutes online by following the link.

Phenomenon Worth Considering (And Guilty as Charged)

It is a phenomenon worth considering, this new generation of nihilist mystics living on Veterans’ Administration checks, Fulbright Fellowships, gifts from casual acquaintances, and occasional scraps from home.
Reblogged from davidcorvine.tumblr.com; quoted from Paul Bowles's Travels: Collected Writings 1950-93.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Preemption

I've been slowly weening myself from the hope of a proper academic career over the past several months. Academia barely exists today, and due to what may still perhaps be a case of sour grapes, I've come to the insight that I probably don't even want such a career to begin with. I've cut back on teaching, and I've whittled down my teaching jobs to one campus and one prep. I've all but stopped applying for positions. To what I foresee as the last academic position I apply to, today I wrote the following:
Please find attached a detailed list of my publications, including manuscripts that are currently under submission. I am also including my curriculum vitae. You will undoubtedly notice a span of time between the MA and the PhD; it was during this time that I lived and worked abroad, either teaching (in Japan) or conducting independent research (in the Czech Republic, Ukraine, and Poland) under grants and fellowships from the US government. My scope of interests, you will see, is truly international and diverse, ranging from political and economic theory to translation theory--all fields that inform my teaching of and research in philosophy.
I give him the necessary information and point out the obvious "gap" in my cv. Then I fill in that "gap" with enough information to be intriguing; I truly am an international man of mystery. I close this paragraph, however, with a preemptive strike. I tell him exactly why that very "gap" is not a gap at all, that while others may perceive a deficiency in my record or a flaw in my character, I, on the other hand, see this as what sets me apart from--and indeed above--all other candidates. I almost believe in the efficacy of my own bravado, which is not even bravado at all so much as an accurate and truthful explanation of what I did in those years. (All this, of course, can be corroborated by perusing the archive of this blog.) I almost dare him to think otherwise.
I trust that such interests and experiences will make my application even stronger, and I would be happy, if you desire, to send you further details regarding this time period.
Here I document my last preemption, my last flickering hope in academia, and my last application to a professorship. It helps that this position is a dream job and not the shite that tries to pass itself off as an academic position. My last rejection letter will come from a truly great institution of higher education, and I will return to the tasks at hand.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Times Roman

Below are some of my photos from a recent trip to Rome. This collection is of architectural ruins and art/historical objects that I found compelling.
Colosseo I
Colosseo II
Bernini's Elephant (Obelisk Outside
Santa Maria sopra Minerva)

Memento Mori I
Memento Mori II
Colosseo III

Francis of Assisi

Raphael's Transfiguration 
(Detail), Vatican
Phoning It In
Venturi's Monotipo-stele, 1963,
Vatican Contemporary Art Collection
Oculus, Pantheon
Colosseo IV
Ancient Curia Door,
San Giovanni in Laterno
Botero's Trip to the Ecumenical 
Council (Detail), 1972, Vatican
Contemporary Art Collection

Forum
He went to Italy to see the History. After paying
 the entry fee he was told that the History was 
no longer there. In its place was a pile of rubble.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Roman Holiday (In Ostia down by the formless sea.)

To prepare in advance for my time in Rome (at Italian cafes), I've spent the past several days reading and watching Pasolini and writing poems in honor of Pasolini: evoking/provoking/convoking the maestro.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thursday Evening

Sitting here on a Thursday evening listening to PJ Harvey play on Apple TV while Stephen bakes a cheesecake from scratch for Shayne's birthday, which we will celebrate tomorrow when she comes up for the day to work on some writing projects. I got her a copy of the collected stories of Lydia Davis. In some ways, this post is an homage to Lydia Davis. And to Shayne. And to Stephen. And to PJ Harvey. But not PF Chang! This is a beautiful Thursday evening with the sweet smell of graham crackers and cream cheese in the air.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Is this about Laura?

How do we transmit grief? Loss? Via tears and via telephone. The receiver dropped on the wooden floor, whose grain links the message to the cord spiraling back to the telephone’s base. Telecommunication holds the community together. The message—through tears—reverberates down empty hallways, across telephone wires, and even at water’s edge over a body wrapped in plastic. We transmit and receive and resend the message, connecting it to the black phone—not the brown phone—whose blackness transmits its own dark message through tears, through wires, through cables, through sobs which connect all the players in their grief, their disbelief. Yes, this is about Laura. And it’s about all of us held together through our tears, our grief. This is about the telecommunication of sorrow because we are not there. Not present when Laura’s absence is discovered. We are not there when Laura’s absence presents itself to the community ripped apart in questions and suspicions. In this way, television, too, is a seeing of what is no longer there, communicating with the ghosts of television past in order to resend and receive this dark message of sorrow.

(This is the kind of thing an under-employed philosopher/writer writes during the summer when he begins watching Twin Peaks for the first time in his life.)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Early-Bird Gothic

wczesno-ptasi gotyku

Who dare writes such a magical phrase?!?! And it confounds me why those other translators have rendered this line into barely suitable English: "early ornithogothic." What a disservice to Szymborska's poetry and my sensibilities as a translator. Hell, even Google Translate does a better job. "Have mercy on them."

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Legend

I don't remember a time in my life when I didn't know of Van Cliburn. From small-town east Texas, he became a legend--and one of my heroes--of both classical music as well as cultural diplomacy. When the Soviets sent Sputnik into space, the US sent Cliburn to Moscow, where he dazzled apparatchik and layperson alike. His win at the 1958 Tchaikovsky International Competition had to be personally sanctioned by Khrushchev himself, who asked the hesitant judges, "Is he the best?" The answer was a resounding, "Да!" His legacy and legend did more for American-Soviet peace than all the ideologues, politicians, and Cold Warriors together.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Misinformation

Assuming that there is someone who actually reads this blog--as opposed to stumbling across it while searching "big black dick" or "big gaping pussy" (the two main searches, by the way, that point to my little corner of the web)--I've had the wrong email address in my profile for some time. If you've sent me an email in the last thirty years and I didn't respond, it's because I never received it. Please resend.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

In Memory of M.B.

Burn all the books. The word is eternal. L'écriture—la maison de l'être. In abandonment, the writer writes to abandon what has been written in order that writing can be written in abandonment. To write is to leave a trace of writing, unwritten and illegible. The book shows itself as the corpus, as the corpse, of the writer. Burn all the bodies so that the book can remain in what is to come, unformed, deformed, reformed, performed, conformed. Blanchot remains. Ten years on: Livre. Vivre. Liberté. Dé-livrance.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dis/Orientation

Instead of fighting against inevitable conflicts, I am choosing to allow my disorientation to orient my life these days. At least until I have some kind of better plan to attend to and before I give up and have to bury an old dream.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Disenchantment

Not every image merely-necessarily represents itself to a subjectivity. Not every subjectivity merely-necessarily represents itself to itself in order to form an identity. Not every thing merely-necessarily becomes object represented upon the screen of history, culture, language, myth, et cetera to one standing apart from, against. Becoming disenchants, disarticulates, and unhinges such subject-object identifications.

He hasn't written resolutions, but if he were to, those resolutions would include

  • to heed the truth of the above passage: to relearn becoming; and
  • to identify less with his body and more with his mind.