Friday, September 29, 2006
My friend James @ RPS in Oakland
Sylvia, my beloved, roves in dreams, an oblivious sylph.
Today I recount some memories of my East European tour that I took last year. It was during late June through early July, 2005. I visited six countries with 3 others who were performing.
The first stop was in Tallinn, Estonia. Andres Loos & Hanno Soans met Mic & me at the airport, we arrived a few days prior to the performance. Andres & Hanno are founders of Looming -makers & shakers of the Estonian art scene- plus they are really swell guys. Since I had never been to Europe (or anywhere really), Tallinn was a pretty unique in my experience. It has vestiges of its medieval identity: castle walls, churches everywhere, winding, narrow, cobblestone streets. We arrived around the "holidays", that is, St. John's Day, which is basically a summer solstice holiday. The streets were nearly emptied and many shops were closed. It would be as though you came to a smaller U.S. city on Christmas.
So was the first impression I had of Tallinn, a quiet and provincial town. Since it was near the summer solstice, it was also during the "white nights", when the sun never really sets. Instead of darkness- you get half-lit, crepusclar evenings. Its quite a eeie feeling to be up at 3AM and feel that it was more like 8AM. The guesthouse we all stayed in was amazingly cozy. It spoiled me for what was to come on the rest of this tour. The best thing was the atrium room; it had windows on all sides and looked out over the small street where the building was located.
Estonia, for some reason, really touched my heart. The collusion of a very old world and a modern world enamoured me. It triggered both my intellectual and emotional parts; perhaps, because it was the first European place I have ever visited, and all of Europe holds these contradictions. It is something that I have not encountered at all in America. I feel as though I met and conversed with an individual who had an emotional wisdom and mature grace yet was still flexible and open to newness. Nevertheless, the Baltic states in particular really held me. So much, in fact, I even bought a book about it at the book sale.
I mostly wandered around in Tallinn. I walked its labyrinthine streets, up and around the hill where we were staying, through the old town. We visited a little photography museum, a old bookstore and a few churches. But mostly I liked to wander around, drinking Tetly tea.
What I remembered most about Estonia: the linden trees that lined the streets, the warm and mild weather, the glimmering and calm quality of light, my sense of freedom. As for food, we did eat at a "traditional" Estonian restaurant, but I don't remember it very well. My favourite meal was the one Andres made for us on our first evening. It was a simple meal made of herring, potatoes, dill and sour cream, but it delicious. So good, that I wanted to re-create it , but I never could get it right.
go here for my pictures of Tallinn
Thursday, September 28, 2006
I sifted through the dusty and donated books seeking a rare festschrift for the great Karimah Bi Ahmad Maruzi compiled by her indebted adherents.
"To Pisa. Pisa lifeless, a dead city silent in the cold grayness of late afternoon and the just-before snow feeling and the hooves of the horses on flat cobblestones and the mud-colored Arno and along a street and no sidewalk and no pedestrians. Clear and empty and frozen. The leaning tower. Like a soul that has been hurt by love. And so on foot together towards Florence." - Harry Crosby Shadows of the Sun
How I spend some of my Wednesday nights.
As Sartre pursues pussy, I seek books. And there were over a ¼ million of them at the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library's 42nd Annual Big Book Sale. Oh the bibliomania of it all! I found books on a number of my interested subjects: Vienna, natural history, essays, mammals, and etc. Now I need to try to read them all. If I read a book and a half a week- that comes to about 78 book a year- I might be able to pull it off since I don't think I have ever bought more than 30 books a year…I don't think. Then again, I may be in denial…..(and then there is the library, in fact, the last 4 book I've read I had checked out from the library). The sale wasn't as madhouse as I though it would be. And since it was also a reception/preview party for members, they were doling out the wine and cheese. I did not partake of the cheese and snacks, but you know I drank some wine. Book browsing and wine drinking, what an ecstatic and dangerous activity!
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Greeting her with gnawing, gnathonic eyes, he tried to buy her time with flattering glances.
Short notes on Tête a Tête, by Hazel Rowley.
Last week I just finished reading this engrossing book about two well-known intellectuals and their romances. Rowley investigates the relationships between Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir and their romantic entanglements with others. A sordid read, yet it fascinates and it never belittles their lives into gossipy land. Their relationship begins as
J-P S and Beaver (Sartre's nickname for Beauvoir) fall in love while young and are at the university. They create a pact were they would never marry or expect monogamy, but would be closest friends and intellectual collaborators for the whole of their lives. And that's what happens. Of course, it gets much messier.
I wondered, after reading this book, if I could have lived a life like theirs? Would I be happy to have an intellectual stimulating relationship with a man I loved, but not have the security of commitment? I admired de Beauvoir's independence and her devotion to her intellectual life, but sometimes, I could imagine that the romantic entanglements would get in the way. The demands of lovers can trivialize the mind. I believe her passion for her other lovers were deep and passionate, but her relationship with Sartre was the one she would rather have.
As for Sartre, often I think his desire for seduction was a compulsion, yet he never ended a relationship cold. He continued to be in touch (if mutually accepted) and even supported many of the women he had affairs with. Dispute his incurable pussyhounding; he was touted as generous, with his time and money. Time is the greatest show of love. We are all limited by time, yet to give someone time in your life is to show the greatest affection.
As for that life, I could accept these premises if I felt that the person was worth it, if they were fair, kind and shared their life with me. Yet, I would prefer to have no other hands, no other lips, no other faces to block my view of his clear, green eyes. The path from me to him, unhindered by obstacles and distractions. Any other desire would be pollution within my intellect. I only want to share my thoughts with him, fully and absolutely.
More in depth reviews-
Monday, September 25, 2006
Friday, September 22, 2006
Oakland picture time!
Inside Dona Thomas, on Telelgraph Ave. in the Temescal District- my friend Tommy!
I had neither charm, beauty, nor wit, but only the ambition to be the klieg light of my social
"Who cares about literature in an age of chaos, collapse de fond en comble? Oh, once upon a time it may have mattered when somehow it seemed to bear on life. But culture today, in so far it exists at all, is mass produced on the assembly line of purely socioeconomic values….Alas, the world has ceased to be creative; it trails social life like a supply column behind a victorious army. It regurgitates the same material, never inventing anything new. Not because the number of words is limited, not because we have run out of radically new concepts, but because of the deeper wells of creativity have been exhausted; because the human personality has faded, withered on the vine."
This is the second part of the two part notes and impressions of Insatiablity, by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz.
After all, Insatiability is a difficult novel to write about, because it spans so many ideas that it would take another book to explain it all. It doesn't deal with the development of characters, rather, the characters- like Zip, are an unfolding of a reaction. What happens when a young, freedom seeker comes into contact with decadence, artistic ideas, unfettered sexuality, and war? It is as though Witkiewicz decided to conduct an experiment in a future world where values and intimacy and been replaced by lust and neurosis, and the novel has became the document. Witkiewicz wrote Insatiability during the two world wars; the erosion of idealism and the political anxiety for the future are apparent. Witkiewicz throws his combating constructs of art, politics, and individuality into the word mix which make up this novel. A painter, playwright, philosopher, he used his novels as a hulking receptacle where these raucous conceits run amok.
I can imagine a near future where Witkiewicz's novels, and aesthetics, become fodder fir the academic mill. His work is perfect for the loveless deconstructions of a perspired graduate student. Perhaps it has already begun. There's so much to analyze, even in just this novel. Topics for papers could include: insatiability as a mind state, the multiple references to cocaine and drug use, aberrant sexuality, women as savior and destroyer, and, the dehumanization of Zip. I hope these droll papers are never doled out. I hope people just discover this book and want to read it. Because it is a crazy and fascinating read.
For more in depth info on Witkiewicz:
And some other views into this novel:
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Our relationship's negotiations was often debilitated by your kafkaesque communications.
Tues night notes:
For dinner I had a slice of pizza from the Cheeseboard Collective in north Berkeley. On it was garlic, roma tomatoes, mozzarella, cilantro, lemon juice and lemon zest. Do you know what garlic and lemon taste like on a pizza? Fantastic! I washed it all down with a glass of an unknown but decent Cabernet. I sat on the ledge of the storefront of the actual cheeseboard
Store, the one that only sells cheese and bread, I ate my inexpensive, gourmet pizza, and I thought how lucky I am the Bay Area, especially to live in Berkeley-Oakland.
Afterwards I walked over to Black Oak Bookstore and attended a reading given by a biographer, Jeffrey Meyers, on the painter, Modigliani. Black Oak readings are often filled with near-retirees, gray-haired with great intellectual aspirations. I Imagine most of them are either professors or work at the university. Modigliani was quite a strange and tragic fellow. He died of tuberculosis at age 35, and had a consortium of sordid friends. Yes, another life I need to add to my list of lives to read about.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
He was desperate for any guidance for his actions; even geomancy, using the rocks in his front yard.
"Raw chunks of butchered hyperrality were squirming in the dust and powder of what were once noble stage boards, all that was left of the old theatre….After the first act, the gut wrenched audience sank back into their seats like limp intestine." -Insatiability Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz
This is the 1st part in two parts of notes and impressions.
For the past month, I have wanted to write a comprehensive and intelligent review of Insatiability, by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz. I read it over a month ago, and it took me a month to read (far longer than it takes for me to read most books). It is a difficult book to discuss. It fits within the strange and perverse literary universe, between Lautréamont's Songs of Maldoror and Alfred Jarry's Days & Nights. Complicated, perverse and at times unwieldy, I was mesmerized and overwhelmed, simultaneously. I vacillated between being unable to put the book down, to being incapable of reading another sentence; but I finished it.
Oddly, I encountered Witkiewicz, Witacy, when I was 16, but did not know it at the time. I used to skip classes while in high school and I would spend my days at the college library. I was wander through the stacks and read whatever seemed curious and would leaped out at me. One day it was a book of surrealist plays, which was titled, The Water Hen. I read it, I did not understand it very well, but I always remembered it. The playwright's name did not stay with me, however, (due to its difficult Polish name) and I went through life with this play in my head, but with no author. Then I came across Insatiability and its author and realized the connection. Nothing, not even that play, with its absurdist plot and its suicidal, nihilistic overtones, could prepare me for the madness of this novel.
Its language is phantasmagoric and punful, even through translation, and the characters are grotesque and unreal. It is a basic story plot; a coming of age story for the main character: Genezip Kapen, and his initiation into the sexual to his final dehumanization. His initial sexual, romantic relationship (and involvement with a group of artistic sadists) eventually corrupts him and he loses his mind. Genezip, or Zip, runs off to join the military and then has a few more mind-loosening romances, which he ends up committing and participating in some unforeseeable acts. Zip occupies an unsettling world, where Europe is under threat of Communist China's takeover, and Poland is embroiled in war with China.
more to come......
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
My estival reading has covered the ground from cadavers to turn of the century Viennese socialites; it has been a very diverse diversion.
"In Arabia there are men 70 to 80 years old who are willing to give their bodies to save others. The subject does not eat food, he only baths and partakes of honey. After a month he only excretes honey (the urine and feces are entirley honey) and death follows. His fellow men place him in a stone coffin full of honey in which he macerates. The date is put upon the coffin giving the year and month. After a hundred years the seals are removed. A confection is formed which is used for the treatment of broken bones and wounded limbs. A small amount taken internaly will immediately cure all complaints. (Chinese Materia Medica, 1597 compilation from Li Shih-Chen)
Mary Roach -Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Stiff, hands down, is the most entertaining book I've read this summer. It covers the usual cadaver info: like car crash tests down with cadavers, or the University of Tennessee lab of decomposing cadavers (for forensic studies). But it also goes into the morbid history of head transplants- which includes sories of two headed dogs and the attempts to revitalize guillotine victims' heads.
I was laughing out loud at Roach's antics in uncovering a newspaper story (rumor). She travels to China to track down a crematorium, where, supposedly a worker there cut off the buttocks of dead people and sold the cheeks to a local restaurant. The next to last chapter is the strangest, it presents the newest ways to dispose of your dead body. You can either compost or disintergrate your tissues. I won't give it away in case you want to read it for yourself. Roach writes in a witty, casual way which allows all these strange stories to be very easily digestible.
A Few Reviews-
Monday, September 11, 2006
From the Indian summer with its somber odors tumbles melancholic memories of autumns past.
Weekend notes: to observe, analyze and document events witnessed.
Gowns show @ RML 9/9/2006
We filed into the solemn affair, the only light, projected candles on three screens.
Initially out of a forlorn calling violin, a voice, without boundaries, disintegrates as it hits air. Among screaming erupted the swell. If you blinked, you might miss the whole note being stuck. The hushed extravagance, impressions left, felt teeth dent insides lips. I chewed my bottom lip until it bled. The light reflected off her guitar and struck my face The oscillation disappeared, then my eyes downcast to white shoes. Her voice beckoned me past 6 feet low, "calling, calling" crawling past 6 feet below.
Friday, September 08, 2006
"Doraemon is a cat like hamburger" This was a quote on a Doraemon puzzle I had hanging in my bathroom for a while when I lived in my previous residence. It could be interpretated many ways- in fact, I think something was lost in translation. A co-worker picked it up somewhere in Asia. I grew up with the Doraemon image, my brother & I had Doraemon toys, stuffies, pencil boxes, chopsticks, manga and ad infinitum. It's one of my few pleasant childhood memories, and I become a bit happier when I see Doraemon. He's been around in Japan since 1970, and has a rather complicated storyline attached to him. Of course, when we were little, my brother and I understood very little of it, but we liked how he looked. He does look rather pleasing with his calm blue color and big rounded shapes. He's so pleasing that his image is everywhere in Asia. And especially in Taiwan. He appears to be the 7-11 representative, because there he is- huge, glowing and friendly blue, on the door, as you walk in. If you want to know more- here's a good Wikipedia article.
The pictures above:
1. Doraemon on the 7-11 door.
2. Doraemon at the night market
3. Doraemon coloring contest
4. Doraemon in plastic
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Thoughts on Tainan, Taiwan.
1. Tainan is not a pedestrian conscious city. It appears that most people drive scooters or drive. Parked scooters, tables & chairs often block and clutter sidewalks. I didn't even see many people walking down the sidewalks. This also might be due to the excessive humidity and heat, which causes one to sweat profusely, in huge drops. In the traffic hierarchy, pedestrians come last, after cars then scooters. One much pay great attention when crossing the street as scooters are everywhere and will cross against red lights if there are no cars around. However, Tainan is quite compact and one can traverse it by foot, easily.
2. Many open air restaurants exist. One can't even pass a block without encountering such restaurants. Unfortunately, being a vegetarian, I was not open to trying much of the food as it appeared to contain meat. However, one could eat fantastically here, as the food is plentiful and inexpensive.
3. Tainan houses many temples of the Daoist, Confucius, and Buddhist variety. You can find them at the end of little crowded alleys, tucked in between streets or within markets. You can find huge magnificent ones out in the "ecological areas", which are a good 30mn drive. They are complicated and often beautiful, but incomprehensible to me.
4. Tainan is not a particularly cosmopolitan city, I don't think many tourists, especially non-Taiwanese or Chinese tourists visit. It was challenging at times to find an English speaker. However, people seemed more or less friendly and curious. The ones I asked for directions were helpful and no one seemed wary of me. I believe, for the most part, it is a relaxed and safe place to live.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
After herculean efforts to appease her, he realized her insatiable demands bordered on the extreme irrational.
Facts about Taiwan-from Wikipedia
Taiwan, formerly known as Formosa (this name came the Portuguese),
is part of the Republic of China, but it is not a part of the People's Republic of China, therefore maintaining its independent status (so far- this is an ongoing debate- whether to join China or not)
In 1624 the Dutch colonized Taiwan and made their capital in what is present day Tainan (the city I visited)
In 1887 the Chinese annexed Taiwan and in 1895 the Japanese took it over.
After WWII, the control of Taiwan has been ambiguous, but it has operated as an independent sovereignty.
Religion: 93% of Taiwanese are adherents of a combination of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism; 4.5% identify themselves as Christians, including Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, and other non-denominational Christian groups; and 2.5% are adherents of other religions, such as Islam and Judaism.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Das Bunker- German Bunker in Nantes
Would a panagea be a panacea for our continental drift?
Back and jetlagged...
Need to download pictures and write something cohoerent.
In the meantime, look at pictures from Nantes, France taken in May.