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 Laughter about emailed photographs of a cow slowly loading on an outdated computer in Ukraine.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


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.