Friday, April 27, 2007

For the Record . . .
My Favorite Blogs are:

1. Dorcus Smucker's funny life in the shoe 2.the weirdness at supergirlemzel 2a. the movies at tikkitikkitembo 3. the honest future astronaut 4. Jenny's anecdotal evidence at baileyandme 5. my fledgling brother's experiances which are better than drugs

Holding Hands

Last Sunday we stayed home and walked in the park. We walked past squirrels squirreling around in last years leaves, past woodpeckers pecking on different sorts of wood so as to make different pecking sounds, so said Jennifer, not using different sized beaks to make African tribal music. There were spring flowers and spring green sprouts sprouting everywhere. The world seemed happy and so were we. Sunning ourselves like iguanas on our favorite rocks. I asked Jennifer to marry me in that park on one of those mica-flecked rocks. I'm glad she said yes almost three years ago.

We talked about so many things. We talk all the time so its hard to remember when we say what we say when I try to write about it. But we talked about how being self-conscious actually means being other-conscious or being-conscious-of-our-self-in-relation-to-others. Which makes me wonder why we don't read poetry out loud to each other. Too embarrassing? We talked about how she feels she has become less interesting. I'm becoming more philosophical, less dogmatic, she says, while she is thinking less and working more. But I wish I would be making a contribution to society like she is -- helping old people to function the way their minds want but their bodies deny. I feel like I'm cultivating my own interests so much, and not others: studying Chinese, people, and thought. I guess we all claim different positions in the cultural field of life as Bourdieu would say if he wasn't dead, but some are more in-tune with the nature of things I think. Maybe someday my occupation will include more helping people.

I like that we agree about so many things. Like that we are here to make the world a place better than when we came. That seeing and listening to the pain of others and feeling their joy is what it means to be a-live; that, and walking in a vibrant park on a Sunday morning holding hands.
We do that for the same reason that birds sing.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Blue Skies

It was a very nice day to-day. The number 1 train conductor kept reminding us: “enjoy your weekend everybody nothing but blue skies . . . .” People smiled. I was on my way to a bit of a Heidegger conference at New School University. The middle-aged Mongol woman across from me in dark blue tinted Gucci sunglasses kept telling Russian secrets to her Russian friend who had artfully dyed orange-red hair in the Russian manner. The Mongol woman was clutching a Cyrillic script newspaper – yes, for those of you who are curious, Mongolia abandoned their originally Uyghur script for political reasons in the 1930s. A homeless man came through shaking a Styrofoam cup of loose change – “any loose change?” he asked. His suspiciously infected-looking parka made people squirm as he leaned on the overhead rail and scooted along scraping their laps clean. A little girl with six pink flower tipped braids sat on her baggie of Ritz crackers. “Look mommy, I smashed them!” she chuckled. Her mom ignored her.

The sky was gloriously blue at 2 in the afternoon. I stepped out of the 1 train stop at 14th street past a vacant bed in the stairwell into the unwavering stares of dozens of tourists positioned like sunning iguanas on the tops of red double-decker buses on the double-decker bus conveyer belt that snakes its way incredibly through Manhattan. The ridiculous buses were pushed by the siren of a firetruck trapped behind them and past cherry trees in full bloom. I wove my way through Greenwich Village weirdos with a smile.


Monday, April 16, 2007


Though this past week has been filled with barking dogs, sleepless days, 15 page papers, torrential downpours, and cranky moods, I did have some redeeming moments. One of them was a poetry reading with accompanying music and painting at a Chinese filmfestival at which I volunteered in exchange for free tickets. I’m not that familiar with contemporary Chinese poetry, so I was surprised at how moving the experience was. The night began with some solo baritone saxophone played by Gert Anklam who has mastered the art of circular breathing. This means that he takes sax playing to a whole other level according to Jennifer (listen by clicking here). It was incredible, an unceasing rising tide of deeply resonant sound. Minutes stretched into hours.

Then the Zhou brothers strode onto the stage brandishing 15-foot bamboo paintbrushes against a bright white 20x40 foot canvas in startling splashes of Chinese black. The whole room vibrated as the music continued unabated and the sound and smell of paint filled the air. Then Bei Da, one of China’s premier poets, began filling in the edges of the sound space with his dignified lyrics of mood and light.

The canvas shook, spots of black splattered the younger Zhou’s bald pate. The 15 foot tall humanoid figure which appeared in the center of the canvas seemed to shimmer in sharp relief as the music went on: a piano and violin racing – and the sax like a Tibetan horn reverberated in successive waves. It was hard not to be present.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Surface of Things

That the meteorite is the source of the light,

And the meteor's just what we see;
And the meteroid is a stone that's devoid of the fire that propelled it to thee.
And the meteorite's just what causes the light,
And the meteor's how it's perceived;
And the meteoroid's a bone thrown from the void, that liese quiet in offering to thee. -Joanna Newsom

In the season of Good Friday in medieval churches across Europe, parishioners sat in the silence of a single flickering candle. The priest took this candle behind the old high alter so that the vaulted chapels were dark save the muted glow of that one entombed candle. Then the Christians would pound the pews – a wrenching of nature demanding the return of that unfiltered light; Christians took on the form of a storm which convulsed upon the death of Christ – demanding his resurrection. And the light of the Holy Spirit showed the way to salvation, said the priest at Saint Malachy’s Church on 49th Street. I think cacophony demands a return to a more sensible order of things. I like the physicality of this practice – it brings desire to the surface. Just like the pipe organ and choir mixed with yellowing marble columns, blood red stained windows, flowing white robes, and the singing liturgy of Catholic faith. Candles are lit to the tune of “O sacred head surrounded by crown of piercing thorn!” by hands splashed with holy water and scented with Easter lilies. Even without belief of understanding these rituals can be meaningful like music without words: like the Gregorian chant to which I refuse the translation. For now, only signifiers arranged, that’s all there is.

Last week I watched Werner Herzog’s documentary Grizzly Man which is about a man who lived with bears in Alaska until one ate him. He thought the bears were his friends: that they were capable of loving him like he did them: recklessly. And animals do seem to become like small childrenpets, yet according to Paul Theroux who raises geese: “the only imperative of most animals, wild and tame, is the quest for food, which is why, with some in your hand, you seem to have a pet, if not a grateful pal.” Yet even without the anthropomorphism of petting – “the doting dog-lover with his baby talk, the smug stay-at-home with a fat lump of fur on her lap who says, ‘me, I’m a cat person,’ and the granny who puts her nose against the tine cage and makes kissing noises at her parakeet” – even without these ways of loving (ourselves), animals are great. Geese are plump, soft with thick down, alert, socially flocking, yawning, with sleepless unblinking clear blue eyes. If animals are not Claude Levi-Strauss’s metonymical humans, they still have meaning: that is, a goose as a goose and thunder as thunder instead of a goose as E.B. White’s sorrowing old timer or thunder as a protest by Thor against the death of Christ. I think people pounding pews so that the priest will bring back a candle is a perfectly fine way of re-presenting the light of the world contained in Christ. It’s not a metaphor as much as it is a “making present again”: a group of people united, struggling to see the same flickering flame.

There is a nun in front of me contemplating a mosaic of Christ with her head tilted to the side like Fay Shaum. She is quietly listening and watching the surface of things. Like a nun I think.