Wednesday, November 29, 2006
"The great events of life often leave on unmoved; they pass out of consciousness, and when one thinks of them, become unreal. Even the scarlet flowers of passion seem to grow in the same meadow as the poppies of oblivion. We reject the burden of their memory, and have anodynes against them. But the little things, the things of no moment, remain with us. In some tiny ivory cell the brain stores the most delicate, and the most fleeting impressions." - Oscar Wilde
The Portrait of Mr. W.H.
A dream I had a few nights ago: I was on a bus with a famous percussionist. He played a rhythm by hitting drum sticks against the various parts of the bus. On the bus was an instrument that resembled a guitar, but its body was a body of some sort of animal and the neck was a bone; a neck bone (very long) or a thigh bone. The body was stitched together to keep it in one piece. But it was also stuffed and it was heavy. However, one could strum the strings and make a decent sound. I carried this burdensome instrument off the bus and into city streets. I had to go up a hill and after awhile, I tired of carrying it (it felt as heavy as a decapitated body and it slumped in my arms uncomfortably), so I left it among some flower pots on someone's patio and went on up the hill without it, feeling relieved.
Monday, November 27, 2006
pictures of random scenes in Paris
I'm not feeling particularly wordy today. I wish I could rinse the reminisces of a letter written a year ago. Better yet, have Lawrence Durrell say it for me, from Justine:
"Lying with one's own kind, enjoying an experience, one can still keep free the part of one's mind which dwells in Plato, or gardening, or differential calculus. Sex has left the body and entered the imagination now…."
"Who invented the human heart, I wonder? Tell me, then show me the place where he was hanged."
"We have been told so often that history is indifferent, but we always take its parsimony or plenty as somehow planned; we never really listen…now on this tenebrous peninsula shaped like a plane leaf, fingers outstretched (where the winter rain crackles like straw among the rocks), I walk stiffly sheathed in wind by a sealine choked with groaning sponges: hunting for the meaning to the pattern."
"The modern novel! The grumus merdae left behind by criminals upon the scene of their misdeeds."
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Not much to say. I've been sick with a cold, so I bring pictures of San Francisco and some weird links:
I hope this doesn't happen to you when you go home for the holidays!
Amazingly, this actually has happened to me!
Art drives people to strange actions!
Friday, November 17, 2006
"An archeologist is the best person to be married to- the older you get, the more interested he is." - Agatha Christie (who was married to Max Mallowan, an archeologist)
America: "instead of being the most successful country in the world, is the greatest failure. It's the greatest failure because everything it was given more than any other country…Its main idea is that everlasting game of trying to possess your own soul by the possession of something outside of it." - Eugene O'Neill
from The Modern Mind - Peter Watson
Notes on last night:
Feelings of affection and grief intertwine within me as a morbid dance. I drink a glass of wine and drift towards the California Botanical Society meeting on a Redwoods lecture; trying to logicize my tempestuous emotions. A silver Honda Civic passes as I stand at the street corner waiting to cross. I am filled with an overwheming desire to beat and destroy it; not because of what it is, but because of what it reminds me. This is not depression, this is not confusion, this is not lonliness; but for the end of me, I cannot tell you what this is.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
"What a splendid thing it is to sleep and dream, just think! The whole of our life is a dream and the best thing in it is, again, dreaming."
"A sort of spiritual hush has come upon me since I moved in here; I don't want to do anything, I don't want to see anyone, there's nothing to dream about, I'm too idle to have ideas-but I'm not too idle to think: these are two different things…"
- Ivan Turgenev Faust
I've been reading this book: The Modern Mind: An intellectual history of the 20th Century by Peter Watson, who wrote an excellent article copied below:
History shows that true innovation has disappeared from our society
Peter Watson Sunday May 22, 2005 The Observer
Next month, in Christie's big sale of valuable books and manuscripts, the highlight is a rare offprint of the famous volume 17 of Annalen der Physik, in which Albert Einstein's three great ideas - on the special theory of relativity, the law of mass-energy equivalence (E=mc2), and the Brownian Theory of motion - were revealed. The occasion marks the 100th anniversary of Einstein's breakthrough.
But the sale of Einstein's papers recalls to mind that they were not the only remarkable event of that remarkable year. Matisse painted Luxe, calme et volupté and Les Fauves were born. Cézanne produced Les Grandes Baigneuses, whose lozenges of colour first pointed to cubism and abstraction. Lenin published Two Tactics, EM Forster wrote Where Angels Fear to Tread, the first regular cinemas opened, Richard Strauss unveiled Salomé and Freud followed The Interpretation of Dreams with his Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex. The Austin motor company (remember that?) was formed, the first motor buses in London appeared, the first neon signs.
The year 2005 can't begin to compete with 1905 in terms of important innovations. Last week's announcement that British and Korean scientists have successfully cloned human embryos only reinforces the point. What else of real importance has happened this year?
We flatter ourselves that we live in interesting times but isn't this just one more example of that particular blindness our solipsistic age has about itself, a more severe form of the disease whereby Princess Diana can be rated the most important (or was it second-most important) Briton ever?
Monday, November 13, 2006
Friday, November 10, 2006
On Wednesday, I went to a book reading at Diesel bookstore in Oakland. Mary Roach was promoting her newest book, Spook. I had read Roach's earlier book Stiff and found it immensely entertaining, so I was curious find out about this author's humor. She did not disappoint.
Sadly, I did not buy her book at this time (although I do plan to read it) instead I bought the newest Walter Benjamin book, I just couldn't help myself, I saw it and I bought it. Simple as that.
Speaking of books:
Last week I read two seemingly different books: The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski and Freud's Vienna by Bruno Bettelheim.
I picked up Freud's Vienna with the interest of expanding my fin de siècle Vienna history interest. The first essay, also the title of the book, does cover that topic. Bettelheim outlines Freud's rise from provincial Jew to a doctor. He explains the tenuous position Freud held because he was Jewish and the toxic atmosphere in Vienna at this time related to this issue. Which of course would come to head in World War II. The two proceeding essays continue this subject. If Bettelheim had written a whole book dedicated to this topic, I would have been pleased. The other essays cover other subjects from those of an autobiographical nature to the questions about Jews. One particular question he presents: "why didn't the Jews resist Nazi orders" really caused me to consider the Holocaust, again. It is a horror that we all recognize, but the reality and calamity of it has dissipated from our awareness. I have been becoming obsessed with this era of history, because in understanding what happened, we can glean clues of how to prevent future catastrophes.
The other book by Kosinski presents the tale of a young boy stumbling from village to village in the pre-modern Slavic country side. It is a Sadean fairytale. Like in Justine, the victim, or narrator, escapes one horrific torturous situation only to stumble into another one. The tale brutalizes this reader as much as the character; however unforgettable images strike the reader with originality. I would not recommend this book to most people, it is little extreme. It was thought of at one time that this was an autobiographical account of what Kosinski went through during WWII. He did not start this idea; however he did not squelch it either.
What align these books are not the topics covered but the authors themselves. Both writers were European Jews who had survived WWII and had immigrated to the US after the war. Both became highly successful writers and were critically regarded with many adherents. In the late 80's, information came to light that revealed both writers had fabricated many details of their lives. Their identities, it appeared, did not correlate to who they really were. They were scrutinized and criticized. Then, within a year of each other, they committed suicide in an almost identical fashion. They took pills and tied a plastic bad over their heads; a curious coincidence. As far as I can tell, neither of them knew the other.
These facts astounded me. I wanted to understand how this could have unfolded. How could two men who had survived one of the most horrible events in history end up committing suicide? And even more curious, why did they manufacture their identities? Were they trying to reconstruct themselves as different individuals than the ones who lived through the war? Many questions- but something I may have to explore.
Here are some links for more info:
"On March 12, 1990, the very date the Nazis had invaded Austria 52 years earlier, Bettelheim, who at 86 was suffering from circulatory problems in his legs, heart trouble, diabetes, arthritis, an enlarged prostate and a blockage in the esophagus, ''swallowed some drugs and whisky and tied a plastic bag over his head.''
Kosiński committed suicide on May 3, 1991, by taking a fatal dose of barbiturates and placing a plastic bag over his head.
His parting suicide note read: "I am going to put myself to sleep now for a bit longer than usual. Call the time Eternity."
1. Mary Roach
2. the cafe where I read
3. arrangement by the espresso machine
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Continuing the week in pictures: Tuesday Night- Election day.
picture 1- My polling place where I cast my vote.
pictures 2 & 3 - Wouldn't it be fitting that after voting I would run into the First Amendment Car? In downtown Oakland, near an empty deli.
After my post-voting depression, I wandered around Oakland and decided to down my spleen with some soup; I went to Pho 84. I realize that we really need to change our life to derail the upcoming total disaster, but sadly, I don't think we will change. Voting for the right progressives is only the smallest step in this needed reform.
picture 4-my painting in my window, which I see everytime I come or leave home, since the window faces the door.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Continuing the week in pictures-
Monday night: I went to a reading at the Beauty Bar in the Mission. This seems to be a new trend: readings in bars, works for me.
The works were not the usual type of books I would read, fiction with plucky female protagonists, but it was an entertaining way to kill a Monday night. The interior of the Beauty Bar is lushly extravagant. The writers were: Heather O’Neill, Emily Maguire, and Sarah Hall. I was drawn to this event because of my curiosity with Emily Maguire; I read her guest blog at Powell's and liked her style. Her story vignette from her book, Taming the Beast, was the most provocative, but as I mentioned before, I usually don't read those types of books.
Pictures came out bleary due to not using flash.
1. Sunset on my home from work
2. BART passenger
3. Emily- profile far left
4. Dogmister- outside the bar
Monday, November 06, 2006
I will try to present this week in pictures.
Sunday afternoon spent wandering around Oakland's warehouse district and the port.
Also, Oakland Korean restaurant round-up--
Where I live in Oakland, I could easily walk to at least a half dozen Korean restaurants. Yet, I lived in this area for seven years and I had not visited even one. Mostly, this was due to my assumed aversion to Korean food. Being a vegetarian (ok, I occasionally eat fish), I thought there was nothing available for me in Korean food. But after examining menus, I realized that there were enough options, so I decided to take the challenge.
Mic, my intrepid partner in this quest, and I have decided to go around the neighborhood to find the best in Korean restaurants.
Kang Tong Degi
3702 Telegraph Ave.(at 37th St.)
Last Sunday, 10/29, we decided to try out the nearest place. I have been intrigued by this restaurant for a year. I wasn't even sure if it was a restaurant, since there are no English words to indicate what it was. However, when I would walk by in the evening, young Korean kids would be stumbling out in an ecstatic and intoxicated stumble. I thought it might even be some sort of Korean neighborhood karaoke bar. I would try to glimpse into the place when the door was a little open, but I still was not able to discern it. One day we walked in and saw that it was a restaurant, but we walked out quickly, too intimidated.
We took the plunge. The wooden interior creates a cozy atmosphere; semi-private booths line the side of the place. A little group of friends could go in and have a lively conversation without being distracted or distractive. Our server was a slender, good-looking kid, and he was extremely friendly. We had a salmon salad, seafood noodle soup, a kimchee pancake and some sort of ginseng wine; it was a lot of food. We could have done without the pancake, although they crisped it in a tantalizing way; I would like to snack on it while drinking. I was fulfilled by the soup and enjoyed its spiciness; Mic relished the salad, but its sweet dressing did not please me, therefore, he ate most of it.
I would like to go here again after experiencing other restaurants. The atmosphere with its private booths and pleasant wait staff gives this place a plus.
Ohgane Korean Restaurant
3915 Broadway (at 40th St.)
We were on a roll. So on Saturday, 11/4, we tried out this place. It is immense, but it was not crowded. It's definitely a place for family style dining. Huge table with charcoal grills, a giant TV screen (playing a football game- not a plus). We had grilled mackerel, a spicy rice bowl with tofu and veggies and cucumber soju. The soju refreshed us; it was put into a bottle stuffed with julienne cucumbers. Even though I usually do not like tofu, I devoured the rice bowl; it glistened with red peppers, deliciously spiced. Unlike Kang Tong Degi which gave us 5 or so banchan (little plates of snacky things), here we had about 12 banchan- and half of it was kimchees, which I vociferously gobbled down (I love kimchee). I preferred the food here, but disliked the atmosphere. Since I do not watch television at all, when I see one I am disturbingly hypnotized by it, as though it is a technological mind control device to which I have no immunity. So dining at a place with a TV brings it down a few points.
Two down- now we only have 25 or more to go!
Friday, November 03, 2006
His intellect was an attempt to pacify the Cerberus of my heart.
"Small grasshoppers came walking by, greedy and single-minded, devouring one grass shoot after the other, or spending hours chirping their song, or courting, with pathetic perseverance, seemingly unconcerned females." -Niko Tinbergen Curious Naturalists
Friday free write: a writing practice where I take the first line from something I read- then continue on in my own words, culled from some sort of unconscious feelings or thoughts. If I remember correctly, the first line here was taken from an article in Bananafish magazine. I can't recall which issue.
Detritus, particularly that which is habitually taken for granted, has a long, tyrannical history over the human condition. Imagine mountains of trash, layers of daily human activity: today's cereal boxes, wadded napkins, banana peels covered and buried under next week's shampoo bottles, wet soggy tea bags, loose hair strands broken plastic bits. We shove the ever growing horror of debris aside. Going along, pretending that our lives are uncluttered, unfettered. But it clings to us, follows us about, hovering around the edges of our thoughts. Junk from which we will never escape. Our past, wrinkled like many mylar wrappers; our future, a never-ending parade of empty containers.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
view of St. Petersburg from St. Issac's belltower
Mini Pianist-biography- from Harold Schonberg's Great Pianists
Artur Schnabel (April 17, 1882 – August 15, 1951)
"His playing had an inner calm and certainty that carried over in to his own life and his deportment on the concert stage. He once played the Brahms B flat Concerto with the New York Philharmonic under Bruno Walter. This concerto was one of his specialties, and he must have played it over a hundred times in public. In the slow movement of this performance occurred what must have happened to every artist at one time or another- a memory lapse. Schnabel went one way, the orchestra another, there was a horrified gasp from the audience and the music came to a dead stop. Walter was appalled. Schnabel merely grinned and shrugged his shoulders, got up from the piano and walked over to the podium. Two elderly grey heads bent over the score, there was a muttered injunction to the orchestra, Schnabel returned to the piano and the music began again. To any other pianists, the mental shock and embarrassment would have been impossible to overcome. Not to Schnabel. He continued to play as beautifully as before. Perhaps even more beautifully, determined to make the audience forget the lapse.
He was also a composer, and anybody who has written about Schnabel has pointed out the Schnabelain paradox: that a musician so steeped in the classical tradition should have composed such advanced music. Schnabel's compositions are abstract, frequently atonal, complicated and difficult to grasp. […] For a while, shortly before his death in 1951, his admirers tried to bring his music before the public, sponsoring well-prepared concerts. These attracted very little attention, and the chances are that Schnabel's music has disappeared for good."