Thursday, November 25, 2010

Notes on the Fortieth Anniversary of Mishima's Suicide

It’s difficult not to feel somewhat overwhelmed with ambivalence regarding Mishima: a gifted writer and a sensitive thinker as well as a fascist and an imperialist trapped by nostalgia for a Japan long extinct. I want to adore him like Saint Sebastian, and I want to cut off the head of the snake who dared insult the Dragon Lady. In Mishima we find the conflicted duality of postwar Japanese culture and identity—a bifurcation I stumbled along for two years, never quite finding my footing. Rest in peace, Mishima, and goddamn you to hell.

Related article: Il y a 40 ans, Yukio Mishima se donnait la mort

Thursday, November 18, 2010

In vino veritas

In a year of Thursdays, today remains the greatest Thursday of all. Today is not only World Philosophy Day but also the day on which the Beaujolais nouveau is released. I continue the endless and thankless editing of my dissertation, effectively avoiding finishing the two or three sections of chapter five--I refuse to count how many--that still need words and work. I spent five days last week in Eugene, Oregon, attending the Radical Philosophy Association conference, where I had smart conversations about Benjamin and Blanchot with people who had better educations than I had. I held my own and even offered insight into these two thinkers to people who had written them off as too difficult and opaque. When I was a child, I was taught that the universe was made of atoms and molecules and elements, but now every scientist affirms that what we see is merely a scrim over the dark and invisible universe that does not exist. I think language is like that. Hence, it's difficult to write words that don't or can't say what I mean about something not there in the first place. Having written that, I have already written 183 pages, without finishing the text or even beginning to put my bibliography together. My two-page table of contents mesmerizes me daily: I could stare at its simplicity and form for hours, having never before written anything requiring such a detailed table of contents. For the past week, I've been repeatedly listening to Hildegard von Bingen's The Origin of Fire and Henryk Górecki's Symphony No. 3. While trying not to weep or to come undone from mourning, I edit my dissertation about words that only reveal their essential absence in the absent universe on a Thursday filled with words (and love!) of wisdom and wine.

Monday, October 18, 2010

5000-Word Check-Up

Myths of the Ancient GreeksSo I haven't spent much time on this blog over the past several months. I'm writing my dissertation. Enough said, probably. If not, then I can tell you that even well into my fifth (and final) chapter, I still love my project. Two weeks ago, I was frozen on page 160, benumbed by pressing deadlines and an attempt to force my way through the passivity of writing. But after untethering myself from arbitrary departmental timelines and taking about ten days to recoup, I am back at the task at hand. During my hiatus, I read an introductory text on Derrida and began a text on presocratic philosophers and another on Greek mythology.This morning I went to campus and wrote more than two pages in under ninety minutes, thus justifying my attendance at a lecture this afternoon on the use of geographic information systems in mapping the Holocaust. The lecture wasn't as interesting as it should have been, though was perfectly described by the presenter as he began speaking as "underwhelming." Thankfully Blake was also there, so I was granted a few minutes of good conversation with a good friend.

HowlYesterday I watched Howl on-demand. I adore James Franco, and not just because he's adorable looking. His portrayal of Ginsberg was intense and insightful. I appreciated most the interview scenario and the reading scenes. The courtroom action was, for the most part, superfluous except as a curious historical dimension of the poem. It's hard to imagine that this law suit took place, especially only fifty years ago. The animation didn't appeal to me. I would have preferred more in-depth biographical or historical material instead of a cartoon enactment of the poem, especially since it seems to me that the poetry is much more concrete, from Ginsberg's lived experience, and is not a flight of fancy, which is the impression the animation gives.

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.

View Around the World in 80 Songs in a larger map

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


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.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Diēs caniculārēs

In these dog days of July, I feel the heat dissipating every ounce of strength my body once contained. My mind has grown stagnant. And for the past six months, I have felt an anxious midlife crisis creeping in. Memory works against me, too: I no longer trust unquestioningly what my mind tells me is true.

When I woke up the day after my twenty-third birthday—after drinking vodka throughout the night, dropping acid, and saying farewell to a lover for the last time—I felt somehow changed, transfigured, as if my feet were squarely on the proper path. But now I feel that I’ve followed that trajectory long enough. I long for disruption, interruption, corruption.

I believe that my chronic insomnia and strict training regimen contribute a majority of fuel for this feeling of disaffectation, of indefinitude. How could I not feel shattered when I wake up at 5:35 AM five days a week in order to run in 80-degree heat and humidity, especially after a night of not sleeping well? People half my age feel worse for doing much less. And the remainder of my day I devote to writing and working, which only approach in hours of relentless diminishment.

Chapter Three has finally released its death grip; I am almost ready to release it into the void and begin to take up the challenges of Chapter Four. I started reading an article this morning, but needed to nap before finishing it. My insufficient nap makes me as tired as a full insomnious week, and when I woke up, I was possessed by the need to write a few words here before getting back to the life at hand, to the work already underway.

From my childhood, I remember acres and acres of watermelon and having the pick of the patch, playing with action figures in the clay of a drying tank, cobwebs and dust bunnies under the bed with metal springs, and what seemed like a hundred days over 100 degrees during the heat wave of 1980. Most of my friends and colleagues weren’t born by then.

By the time I turned twenty-three, I already felt like I had already lived a full life. This was before moving overseas, living on other continents, falling in and out of love like a decadent aesthete, composing and producing three albums, and finding myself murmuring incoherently in the snow among the birch trees of Brzezinka. This was before apple tea in Istanbul and Porto in Montreal, before hikes across Okinawa and train rides to Venice. I only hope now I’ve reserved a few things for after.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Memory (Once More)


Und du wartest, erwartest das Eine,
das dein Leben unendlich vermehrt;
das Mächtige, Ungemeine,
das Erwachen der Steine,
Tiefen, dir zugekehrt.

Es dämmern im Bücherständer
die Bände in Gold und Braun;
und du denkst an durchfahrene Länder,
an Bilder, an die Gewänder
wiederverlorener Fraun.

Und da weißt du auf einmal:  Das war es.
Du erhebst dich, und vor dir steht
Eines vergangenen Jahres
Angst und Gestalt und Gebet.

 - Rainer Maria Rilke


And you’re waiting, expecting the one
to expand your life without measure;
the mighty, exceptional,
the awakening of stone,
depths, turning back toward you.

Dusk settles on the bookshelf
in tomes of gold and brown;
and you think of lands traversed,
of vistas, of the discarded
robes of women.

And you know at once:  Here it was.
You pull yourself up, and in front of you stand
another lost year’s
fear and form and plea.

 - Frank Garrett, trans.

Friday, July 2, 2010

At Once: A Second Word in Passing

In eins

Dreizehnter Feber.  Im Herzmund
erwachtes Schibboleth.  Mit dir,
de Paris.  No pasarán.

5     Schäfchen zur Linken:  er, Abadias,
der Greis aus Huesca, kam mit den Hunden
über das Feld, im Exil
stand weiß eine Wolke
menschlichen Adels, er sprach
10   uns das Wort in die Hand, das wir brauchten, es war
Hirten-Spanisch, darin,

im Eislicht des Kreuzers »Aurora«:
die Bruderhand, winkend mit der
15   von den wortgroßen Augen
genommenen Binde – Petropolis, der
Unvergessenen Wanderstadt lag
auch dir toskanisch zu Herzen.

Friede den Hütten!

- Paul Celan

In One

Thirteenth of February.  In the heart-mouth
an awakened shibboleth.  With you,
of ParisNo pasarán.

5     Sheep to the left:  he, Abadias,
the old man from Huesca, came with his dogs
over the field, in exile
was a white cloud
of humane nobility, he spoke
10   to us a necessary word in the hand, it was
Shepherd-Spanish, in there,

in the icelight of the cruiser Aurora:
the hand of brotherhood, waving with the
15   blindfold removed
from eyes as wide as the word – Petrograd, the
unforgotten migrant city was
to you even Tuscan at heart.

Friede den Hütten!

- Frank Garrett, trans.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Password ... Said in Passing


Mitsamt meinen Steinen,
den großgeweinten
hinter den Gittern,

schleiften sie mich
5     in die Mitte des Marktes,
wo die Fahne sich aufrollt, der ich
keinerlei Eid schwor.

10   Doppelflöte der Nacht:
denke der dunklen
in Wien und Madrid.

Setz deine Fahne auf Halbmast,
15     Erinnrung.
Auf Halbmast
für heute und immer.

gib dich auch hier zu erkennen,
20     hier, in der Mitte des Marktes.
Ruf’s, das Schibboleth, hinaus
in die Fremde der Heimat:
Februar.  No pasaran.

25     du weißt um die Steine,
du weißt um die Wasser,
ich führ dich hinweg
zu den Stimmen
30     von Estremadura.

- Paul Celan


Along with my stones,
swollen with tears
behind bars,

they hauled me out
5       in the middle of the market,
where the flag unfurls, to which I
swore no oath.

10     aulos of night:
think of the dark
double redness
in Vienna and Madrid.

Set your flag at half-mast,
15     mem’ry.
At half-mast
for today and always.

make yourself known here too,
20     here, in the middle of the market.
Call out the shibboleth
in the alien homeland:
month of revolution.  No pasarán.

25     you know about the stones,
you know about the water,
I’ll lead you away
to the voices
30     of Extremadura.

- Frank Garrett, trans.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Malevich and Suprematism, Part 3: A Desert of Pure Feeling

Since I have sworn that I would not pursue retranslating Malevich’s Suprematism manifesto until after completing the dissertation, I’ll use a deficient translation I found online several weeks ago. I won’t pretend it’s sufficient and not flawed. My reading, also and in its own way insufficiently flawed, follows.

For Malevich, “pure feeling” undergirds Suprematism; such feeling is what makes Suprematism supreme, maintaining its supremacy over other contemporary art movements. The phenomena of the “objective world” remain meaningless. Only feeling establishes any kind of significance.

But this significance, this meaning, stems from a decontextualized emotional response to natural or naturalistic phenomena, divorced from any original context or environment. Feeling as such enfolds and creates the value of a work. In this way, Suprematism “ignores the familiar appearance of objects” and instead allows for the fullest expression of pure feeling, albeit in a nonrepresentational and nonobjective, yet nevertheless wholly appropriate, manner.

The viewer confronts a “desert” upon the canvas: there is nothing there except for the expression of pure feeling as such.

In the same way that the Suprematist eschews representation and objectivity, he too rejects symbolism and idealism, placing demands upon us with the maddening and defiantly demanding question, “Is a milk bottle, then, the symbol of milk?”

Malevich’s black “dead square” as desert becomes “lost to sight,” receding further with the familiar into the background. In this new desert, wherein a black square becomes the pure feeling of confronting the absence and emptiness of the desert of things and naturalistic objects, the square’s blackness does not come to “represent” a desolate and nihilistic space devoid of meaning.

Once we have abstained in art from things and concepts, we are left with feeling, pure and untainted by its relational gesture toward object, entity, idea, or intent. Here Malevich insists a square is not necessarily a square but instead a depiction of the overwhelming emotion he brazens out, defies, tackles, and submits to upon the canvas.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Malevich and Suprematism, Part II: Gadamerian Hermeneutics

In Part 1, Section 1.2B.iv “The limits of Erlebniskunst and the rehabilitation of allegory” in Truth and MethodGadamer delineates between allegory and symbol: “The symbol is the coincidence of the sensible and the non-sensible; allegory, the meaningful relation of the sensible to the non-sensible” (64).

The symbol, in its indeterminateness, exposes itself as concurrently coincidental to the truth-event it seeks to express. In this way, we can never exhaust the meaning(s), interpretation(s), and translation(s) of the symbol because it is, in its most fundamental, essential reality, that reality itself, even insofar as we cannot speak the truth of that ineffable, sublime, transcendent reality despite all our attempts toward articulation.

The σύμβολον [symbolon] throws together the real with its representation, in its most meaningful sense: that is, as that which makes present again the real. One cannot dissociate, disconnect, or detach a crucifix, for example, from the sacrifice of the Agnus Dei. They are interchangeable; they mean the exact same thing.

The allegory, on the other hand, speaks toward a reality but obliquely, in an otherwise fashion. The relation between the allegory and the truth-event that allegory seeks to express communicates a precise and definite commensurate correlation. In this way, the relation seems to trump the allegory itself, which is always inferior, subservient to its reality.

Here we find the difference between the token and the emblem. The token serves as a replacement—think subway tokens that take the place of actual currency—while the emblem is a sign for something else: a heraldic lion is never confused with an actual lion; it merely means dauntless courage, to which an embroidered lion on an officer’s badge will always yield.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Malevich and Suprematism, Part I

Kazimir Severinovich Malevich [Казимир Северинович Малевич] was Russian in its most contested forms: he was born in Ukraine of ethnic Poles, which would make his name Kazimierz Malewicz. I suspect that such contingencies of identity--particularly within the Slavic linguistic system and the Soviet political climate of the early twentieth century--inform much of Malevich's rejection of his Cubo-Futurism and subsequent development of a movement in non-representational art he called Suprematism.

It is in his Suprematist compositions where non-representationalism and non-objectivism converge, collapsing the entire system of representational and symbolic art of the past several centuries. It is also here that Malevich comes to prefigure the post-Structuralism of the late twentieth century.

We do not need to know who the painter was. Nor does our hermeneutics require knowledge of Suprematism per se or of the work's title. This work's title is Suprematism No. 50 (1915). In it, we already see how the recent deployment of photography exiles the painter from the role of representer. We will look more closely--through the lens of Suprematism--at another work that complicates symbolism and signification in another post.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Vernal Caesura MMX / Spring Break MiX 2010

Sometime Around Midnight (Acoustic Version)*
The Airborne Toxic Event
Sometime Around Midnight (Acoustic Version) – Single
This song has a Jesus & Mary Chain and Psychedelic Furs vibe from the late 80s, which can never be a bad thing.

Beach House
This song continues to grow on me despite my original aversion to its microtonality.

State Trooper (Trentemøller Mix)*
Bruce Springsteen
Pitchoun - La Cassette - Face Rêvolution
Why is Trentemøller the only one remixing/re-envisioning classic Springsteen? Cool and brilliant.

Lose My Self
The Duke and the King
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Dreamy and moody tune with some dramatic swells just when the drugs kick in.

Io Echo
Doorway – Single
I first heard this song in a commercial. Then I went in search of a hot Armenian boy (redundant, I know) who somehow intersected with this band. There's only one word for it: kismet. (PS: I want to date you hard, Aram!)

Boy Lilikoi
Gay, pale, Icelandic, half-blind countertenor whom I'm flying across the country to see in concert in NYC come May. Mesmerizing.

Pale Horses
Wait for Me
There's something very nostalgic about this track. There's something painfully contemporary about this track. "Couldn't live without you when I tried to roam."

We Do What We Want To
Gleeful + blissful. Luxurious soundscape + gorgeous vocals. Nice + simple. O+S.

The Royal We
Silversun Pickups
Few contemporary bands rock with smarts and substance. Check 'em out!

Under the Milky Way
Industrial Pop
Finally someone pushing electronica toward something listenable and contemplative without putting you to sleep. Plus he has a silky voice--à la David Sylvian--beneath all that guy-liner.

The xx
XX (Bonus Track Version)
If this is what the cool kids are making out to, then I'll take a second helping. You have to appreciate how they let the open spaces speak by keeping them open.

The Sun Is Down! (Cornelius Mix)
Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band
Don't Stop Me! – EP
I doubt there is a bigger Yoko Ono fan--or one who has been a fan for as long as I have--out there. A great dance song by a brilliant artist.

* For the 2 songs that didn't make it onto the iMix, click on the song title to link to a site where you can buy or download the mp3.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bullet-Point Friday: Spring Writing Projects

  • The online academic journal borderlands out of Australia will publish my review essay of Lisa Guenther's The Gift of the Other: Levinas and the Politics of Reproduction next month. I'll post a link as soon as the new issue is up. This is really an exceptional work of philosophy and scholarship.
  • Last Saturday afternoon I presented an excerpt of my article "Facing ('and yet not facing') East: Reorienting Levinas Toward the Buddhist No-Self" at the 43rd Annual Conference of the North Texas Philosophical Association. The longer version of this article will be published in my forthcoming co-edited volume Levinas and Asian Thought some time next year. I've spent the majority of my "second spring break" reviewing the submissions to this volume, and I have to say I'm pleased with the quality of papers we've received.
  • Here is my abstract for an essay entitled "The State of Emergency: Power, Terror, and the Problem of Resistance" I submitted to the Radical Philosophy Association Conference:

    In his eighth thesis on the philosophy of history, written during the spring of 1940, Walter Benjamin writes,
    One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its opponents treat it as a historical norm. The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are ‘still’ possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge—unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable.
    Can we say the same of terrorism in the twenty-first century? Is it simply our view of history that we somehow have gotten wrong? In this essay, I approach the issue of contemporary terrorism and its affect on knowledge by examining the philosophical discourse of power and terror as well as exploring how terror acts as yet one more articulation of power itself.
    Arguing against the humanist tradition that would split knowledge and power into separate spheres, Michel Foucault asserts, “knowledge and power are integrated with one another.” Still, terror, much like Foucault’s notion of the State, is dispersed: individuals are simply nodes, or articulations, of power confined within a closed, yet nevertheless ubiquitous network. For Foucault, the exercise of power is never wholly negative: although one aspect of power is repressive, power nevertheless does generate new knowledge. But there seems to be an ethical disconnect in comparing terror-power to state-power: would Foucault himself even be able to maintain that the exercise of such terror-power cannot only be in negative terms, particularly to Benjamin, who was literally fleeing the “negative exercise of power” of the Third Reich as he penned the thesis cited above?
    Benjamin implicates our view of history in the production of fascism. Furthermore, he seems to be suggesting—much like Foucault—that with a complete shift in our understanding of history and knowledge, a new power might be possible. But the usefulness of a terror-knowledge appears flawed at best. Is a terror-knowledge something we (should) want? Within the notion of power, in its dispersal, it seems that an interrogation of terror-power (even if that terror-power is the selfsame state-power, as in Benjamin’s case) would be a possible means of understanding both Foucault’s and Benjamin’s conflicting notions of resistance as well as their views on any efficacy of an agentic subject contained and restrained by that resistance. In this project, I hope to move toward an answer to these more abstract questions by addressing the following issues: the nature and ontological category of terror-power, the systemic violence of ontology, the possibility of a terror-knowledge, and the problem of resistance.
    It's a topic I've been working through and thinking about for the past few years. We'll see if it's "radical" enough to be accepted.
  • I've had a poem published in our literary journal Sojourn. I can't remember the last time I submitted something creative for publication, especially a poem. Years ago I fancied myself a poet. Blah!
  • My dissertation has been at a standstill for the past few months as I complete these other projects in hopes of beginning an academic career after defending this autumn.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bullet-Point Friday: Reading

  • Nietzsche writes in Ecce Homo that it is something like a sickness to sit down at the beginning of the day to read instead of taking a brisk walk first. This morning I forwent this advice and sat reading a feminist critique of Levinas for 90 minutes. It's a book I need to write a review essay over during spring break. When during graduate school did reading become always a means instead of an end?
  • I would love to sit down and read for the entire day, but I feel this nagging drive to move my body. I'm now taking a break from lifting weights and stretching, which was a break from reading, in order to write something on this sad, neglected blog. I'm unable to read the way I used to; I have to break it up, to give my mind some kind of reprieve from pure consumption and reflection. I have to be able to think otherwise if I am to think at all.
  • I read my lover's body as sacred text, incarnate divinity. The constellations of hair and small imperfections give rise to a mythology that acknowledges his pure difference in desire. My frail hermeneutics ends like all Platonic texts in aporetic alterity.
  • Life is short... on TwitpicA few nights ago I watched Ikiru [生きる], one of the few Kurosawa films I've seen in its entirety. It's been 18 years since I last watched it, which was years before I moved to Japan, where I learned to read and write Japanese. I noticed almost immediately that the subtitles had been recently retranslated: the film didn't read the way I remembered. The protagonist is Kanji, a homonym/synonym for the written word, who faces his own mortality after losing (almost) all his enthusiasm--a word I use advisedly and knowingly after reading the Phaedrus.
  • Over spring break I have to read 48 one-page critical summaries of Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morals. I'm interested to see what my students have to say about this text, how they understand its philosophical content, and to know whether or not they learned anything from the extensive feedback I gave them on their first papers. (Apparently I could learn a thing or two about parallel structure, but I won't hold my blog to the standards of my academic writing.) When during graduate school did reading become a necessary chore?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Bullet-Point Friday: Significance

  • The first time I had sex after my father died my orgasm was amazing. It was as if my physical joy was supplemented by the knowledge that his body already lay rotting in a casket, unable to feel pleasure again. If it ever did. In many ways I feel I was cheated out of my father's death. After spending the majority of my childhood wishing him dead, he did not finally die until almost a full 16 years after I cut all ties to my parents. Far too late to give me any possibility of having a more pleasant childhood. His death, much like his life, was useless to me by that point.

  •  When my sister finally called to give me the news I had already learned from other sources days earlier, she related his last hours, embellished to give the impression that his death was imbued with significance. The last time he had been rushed to the hospital for his heart condition, he had had his "path toward the light" experience that had somehow relayed to him that the afterlife would embrace him, would enfold him in eternal peace. So he had told my mother that he did not want to be resuscitated the next time. That everything would be alright. Oh, the lies horrible people tell themselves to "make up for" their truly horrible lives!

  • My eldest sister drove up from central Texas to sneak into the funeral home to pay her last respects, to say her farewells when the "rest" of the family was gone. After several years of not having contact with our parents. I briefly toyed with the idea of an after-hours visit with my father's corpse, not to say goodbye, for I had already done that 16 years prior, but to stuff a bag of my own feces into his casket so he would smell my shit for eternity. But that seemed a bit over the top. So I did not make the late-night trip to an east Texas funeral home with the other estranged members of my family.

  • My father "departed" February 10th, slightly more than a week after my birthday. I like to think he was thinking of me the days before his death. That I was nothing like him. That I had too much self-respect and dignity to ever be like him. The last "conversation" I had with my father was almost sixteen years prior, when I threatened to be the one to call the police myself.... In some ways I feel I missed that window of opportunity when abused children could murder their abusers and get out of a prison sentence for being too young or too emotionally damaged. But the healing that has come in the time since lets me know that that route was never truly an option.

  • The official obituary listed one child and two grandchildren. Basic arithmetic was never my parents' strong point. Nothing basic ever was. (This mathematical oversight was no less meaningless than trying to pass off my eldest sister as a ten-pound premature baby when she was born eight months to the day from their wedding. But I digress.) Being absent in that petty way makes my estrangement somehow sweeter. And yet my name was listed--or the name I share with my namesake--as one who preceded my father in death. "Brother" and "son" are empty signifiers anyway. Much like "father," itself even empty as a signified.

  • This past Tuesday, the day after my birthday, I received a note from Tetsuya, one of the most significant men in my life. He wrote, "After all, blessed are your parents who gave birth to a wonderful man like you." It is only by way of the love I have received in this life that I am able to give love at all. Even to and for the insignificant man who gave me life.