Tuesday, October 31, 2006
In the evening we all reconvened. And so went my first day in St. Petersburg. We stayed for another two days. The next day, we did some sightseeing; mostly we visited a couple of cathedrals/museums and walked around the Nevsky Prospekt. We visited the well-known The Church Of Our Savior On Spilled Blood. I had never been in such an elaborately decorated place before in my life. I was stunned. Your eyes could not feast enough upon what you could see. The inside was as extravagant as the outside. It is quite ironic to think that a country with such churches could become communist and revile religion. This is a paradox that I will have to investigate later.
We also visited St. Issac's Cathedral which was also impressive but not as lavish. We ran into a group of Orthodox monks (or priests- I cannot tell the difference) and since we were dressed in black and they were cloaked in black, we all blended in. We ascended the narrow staircase up to the bell tower; around and around the spiral, clomping upwards in our black clothes. Afterwards, we headed back to the venue, the Art Center, where the performances were to be held for the next two nights.
The next day, Mic & I wanted to visit the Hermitage, but the line was so long, we would barely have a chance to see anything. So instead we went to a vegetarian restaurant, The Idiot. And we wandered around some more. Later in the evening, after Mic & F's show, we took the train which would take us to Moscow. We would arrive in the morning.
Overall, I found St. Petersburg to be a city with equal qualities of the European world as well as in the Russian world. It held a very metropolitan energy. The layout was very similar to American cities in that the roads were quite wide and the buildings were massive. The city felt as though it was created to engulf the individual. Nevertheless it is a beautiful city.
1. Instead of going into the Hermitage, I petted a cat who was hanging around.
2. Inside of St. Issac's Cathedral
More pictures here
Friday, October 27, 2006
St. Petersburg was the second city of the tour.
We left Tallinn early in the morning and took a bus to St. Petersburg. We initially wanted to take a train or ferry, but a bus was the only way to get there since the other transportation services had been discontinued. I remember the landscape being very green and relatively unpopulated. There were no large, or even medium sized cities between Tallinn and St. Petersburg.
Crossing the border into Russia was quite unforgettable. The bus stopped at a non-descript grey, bureaucratic building. The Estonian border patrol, a youngish woman with short-cropped, brightly dyed red hair, gathered all our passports and disappeared for a few minutes. She returned with the passports freshly stamped with the exiting Estonia mark. We all had to exit the bus and gather our luggage; we then had to file into the building. The bus crossed the border, empty. We were instructed to form two lines to go through the Russian border control with our luggage in tow. I was the last to enter the building and as my foot crossed the threshold, the door slammed shut and was locked.
I was nervous because everyone seemed so solemn and serious. As I came up to Russian passport control, a good-looking young guy with a well-chiseled face barked something to me in Russian. I had a moment of confusion due to my incomprehension of Russian, but it was pointed out that I needed the extra form (which one fills out to enter countries) which I recovered and handed over. He took the form, looked at me without expression, and stamped my passport. After the affair, we re-embarked the bus. Thereafter, I noticed all the signs were in Cyrillic.
We arrived in St. Petersburg in the afternoon. We waited at the bus stop for our contacts: Ilya and Oleg. When they finally arrived, there was much discussion about what needed to be done next. Since three of us didn't speak Russian, we often had to sit out on these discussions. I also noticed that these discussions could go on longer than one thought they should, F. would smoke a couple of cigarettes during these seemingly endless debates. The decision had been made. Mic & Jeff would go with Ilya to purchase tickets to our trip to Moscow (this was another pattern during this trip- as soon as we got somewhere, we had to be prepared to go to the next city) and F & I would take all the luggage to go with Oleg to Vasilievsky Island where a kid named George lived. We would take a cab to accomplish these tasks.
Taking a cab in Russian, I soon discovered, meant something that I did not expect. Taking a cab in Russia does not mean you stand on a street corner and wait for a friendly, clearly marked cab to stop and pick you up. No, getting a cab in Russia means you stand at a street corner with your hand out, waiting for someone to stop, and then you argue about where you are going and how much they (a random person) will charge to take you there. It is similar to a hooker picking up tricks. Another thing I noticed, in Russia people's cars are totally trashed. Often things are broken and the interior is not kept. This seemed consistent in my car riding experience. The car owners are obviously not, unlike the more materialistic Americas, obsessed with their cars.
So Oleg finally flags down a cab (this process can take a long time) and F and I piled into the small car, crowding it with all the luggage- and there was a lot of luggage (for four people) I had Jeff's huge backpack on my lap, crushing me, while F was crammed next to me. He and I didn't say a word, and sat mutely in the back seat with our sunglasses on. (For some reason Jeff instilled in our mind that we were not to let on that we weren't Russian, he created this cloak and daggers aura, and that if anyone knew we were not Russians, the gig would be up. Now, I have no idea what this paranoia was all about. Then we just went along.) The driver would look nervously in his rearview mirror at our stoic faces. Finally we arrived at Vasilievsky Island and were able to unload the entire luggage. George spoke English, fortunately, so we were able to converse with him. Oleg spoke a little French and even less English, so our communication was minimal at best.
(…..to be continued)
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Stories of a person: a librarian from D.C. and her lovely, long life
Bad S-x awards?
The secret behind champagne bubbles
Pelican shocker! Yes, life has definitely gotten weirder
And sad to say- more about environmental demise- will it ever get to the point where people will actually alter their lifestyle- of course, the biggest offender- the United States
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Who dares step into a tepidarium with a pixilated mind?
I bought the book and I read it. It entertained me, but never crossed the line into sensationalist titillation. As a former art history student, I appreciated the analysis of images: from the murdered body to the various art depictions. I only have one criticism: the book should have been written in a style that would be more befitting to the subject. Although it was written very clearly and logically, the style lacked engagement. It's hard to really be more exact. Anyway, I won't say much more because so much has already been said-
Other blogs' reviews and the blog of the book itself if you are interested:
One last note- for my book-buying mania which seemed to have afflicted me at the 4th Street Cody's in Berkeley last Monday- not only did I buy the above mentioned book, but also Rainer Maria Rilke and Lou Andreas-Salome: The Correspondence, to fulfill my "real" intellectual side. I shall start it when the weather becames cold and lugubrious; it will something for me to come home to.
Monday, October 23, 2006
I hope to return to my prelapsarian days, someday, before living exhausts me.
Happy Birthday to my Bloggy friend- Ncash- his birthday was on Sat. For you, my friend- a picture of a great CA landscape near Santa Barbara.
Today, my head is filled with this poem-
The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.
--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
Friday, October 20, 2006
How could I ever begin a tractate on the complex emotions of attachment?
Pictures of an Oakland building- between Summit & Webster on 29th Street
Been reading these blog posts from this writer who posted today on Kosinski-
I started thinking about what makes up a life? With all the memoirs written nowadays- had any life not been written about? Has it become an addiction to the sensational? Does what happens to a person (oftentimes it is out of the person's control anyway) is that makes a life worth telling? What about thoughts and feelings? I suppose if that were the major pulse of a life, such a person would write about those things. I, too, am guilty of lurid fascination. Half of what I read is about other people. My only defense: I have an incurable curiosity of how others' live their lives. If I could dissolve my own being to become a speck of consciousness which can witness the multiple lives unfolding in this world; that would greatly please me. Instead I am a discrete being, bounded by body, unable to transcend the limits which allow me to observe all simultaneously. Hence the closest I can attain this perfected state I desire, is through reading all these thoughts and lives.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Dec. 6, 1928 from Shadows of the Sun, when Harry Crosby encounters Georgia O'Keefe's paintings for the first time:
I finished two books this week which came into some strange alignment and did a number of moodiness to my head: Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre and Shadows of the Sun: The Diaries of Harry Crosby.
I know, some people will say, "Oh, I read Nausea when I was in high school", but I would reply, "Did you understand it?" People often exclaim how they read so and so in high school but rarely can say anything intelligent about the work. I say yes, read as much as possible in high school then after you graduate, forget that you read those books and read them again in few years after some life experiences.
Regarding Nausea, I was surprised how internalized and moody this book turned out to be. After reading the bio (Tête á Tête) then reading this novel; I found myself trying to fit the pieces of Sartre's life into the shape of the novel, not a good tactic.
Questions arouse. Why did the main character only interact with the autodidact, pederast and a petulant, aging actress? And who was the narrator, really? Was this an exercise in depression? Is existentialism a society-wide depression? Nevertheless, existentialism and the Roquentins of this world has come and gone. Trends shift, and people are still having kids, romances, cars, wars; not much has changed. Yes, perhaps there are more options for those who chose to step outside of the line of "progress", but how many can really sustain a life of introspection?
On the other hand, Shadows of the Sun: The Diaries of Harry Crosby, was a romp into pure self-indulgence. Harry Crosby acquired notoriety as an American poet who served in WWI, moved to Paris in the mid-1890's, lived madly among other expatriates, drinking champagne cocktails, placing bets on horse races and chasing tail, then committing a sensationalist double suicide with his girl lover-proto Sid & Nancy.
Even though Crosby knew many people in this Paris scene, one doesn't get any insight about history in reading his diaries. It is written in a codified, fragmented, impressionist way; however, one does learn about how many cocktails Crosby drank, or how much money was gained or lost on horses, or what woman du jour Crosby obsessed about. All this wrapped around very mythological and breathless paeans to the sun and fire.
Crosby would be someone I would go drinking with and listen to his extravagant stories, but I unless I kept distant, I don't think I would personally like him very well. His diaries reveal a not very considerate and self-absorbed person bent on self-destruction. Nevertheless, what makes this diary interesting is that it presents a rare window into a time and a life that might have dissolved into history.
More about Crosby's chaotic life.
Photo copyright © 2005 Theodore W. Pietsch
"Then, perhaps, because of it, I could remember my life without repugnance. Perhaps one day, thinking precisely of this hour, of this gloomy hour in which I wait, stooping, for it to be time to get on the train, perhaps I shall feel my heart beat faster and say to myself: "That was the day, that was the hour, when it all started." And I might succeed- in the past, nothing but the past-in accepting myself." J-P Sartre Nausea
random word generator- if you need a work pick-me-up
today my word was "filled" as in: I'm filled to the gills with your unnecessary thrills.
This is one of the best book reviews I've ever read. It was so good, I went out and bought the damn book and started reading it the next night. The Exquisite Corpse
A funny post I saw from the SF Gate Culture blog-
learn about frogfishes
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
"How can I, who have not the strength to hold to my own past, hope to save the past of someone else? I picked up my pen and tried to get back to work; I was up to my neck in these reflections on the past, the present, the world. I asked only one thing: to be allowed to finish my book in peace. But as my eyes fell on the pad of white sheets, I was struck by its look and I stayed, pen raised, studying this dazzling paper; so hard and far seeing, so present." J-P Sartre Nausea
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
"General ideas are more flattering. And even then professionals and amateurs always end up being right. Their wisdom prompts them to make the least possible noise, to live as little as possible, to let themselves be forgotten." - J-P Sartre Nausea
Drunken airplane thoughts while in Denver, CO:
"Meat was in everything, so we refused. The tangerine scented oil penetrated the parchement and ink. We concentrated on the horizon of pure cloud into sky.
High on vodka!
New York magazine
Servicing Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong!
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Flâneurie in San Francisco
It's Trichotillomania awareness week- 10/1-10/8, help stop loved ones from pulling their hair out!
Other tricks Dads use to keep the suitors away.
I like to read this blog, although, admittedly, sometimes I understand little of it.
Learn a little everyday
Suicidal writers- I've read half of the books on this list, and I'm working on the other half~
Extremophiles! Learn to be one, or at least, how one lives~
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Mini-pianist biography- from Harold Schonberg's Great Pianists
Josef Hofmann (born January 20, 1876 in Kraków, Poland; died February 16, 1957 in Los Angeles)
"Nor is it likely that any pianist of the century has Hofmann's incredible control of dynamics. His pianissimo had many levels of shading, and he seems to have a brain built into each of his velvet fingertips. When he played Chopin's posthumous D flat Étude the piano did things that pianos are not supposed to do […] When he really let go, his fortissimo attack had an almost savage quality. There was actually something frightening about it, all the more that he used it spaingly and with meaning. Even when, toward the end of his career, he was out of pianistic condition, his interpretations were never less than fascinating. At his last New York concert in 1948, Hofmann played Chopin's B minor Sonata. At one point in the last last movement- measure68- he did not like the way things were going and in a frenzy brought his left hand down and smashed the keyboard with his palm, sforzando as marked. It was like a roar of a wounded lion. When Hofmann got carried away, losing his classic poise, and when in frustrated madness he would try to burst the flesh that held him back."
Follow the links for more~
Monday, October 02, 2006
Finally, the sun emerges from its somnific gray cloudy bed.
August 3. S. depresses me. If only women realized the charm of being chaste- how chasteness is almost as important as beauty and how it is the axle of the wheel of beauty.
4. In the boat two miles straight out to sea, and the sea entered my soul silver-green and the sun is the gate to Infinity; and I read in the Bible: "Seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten" and I drank a cocktail with the girl of the white polo coat and she had a charming way of using her hands when she talks (and when she….?)
6. Paris. As the little waif in the park-bench scene in Liliom, or kneeling (mystical) in gold armour (physical) in Jehanne d'Arc?
8. Champagne and Orchids.
9. And to the Saint Lazare to say goodbye to Little Nubile and "on est si peu de chose devant l'immensité du monde" and I go to A's and "il y a un monsieur qui dort" (if only we all could dort always) and I hate summers in France. I drink a whiskey and all is desolution (letter in gray).
~ Harry Crosby Shadows of the Sun