Sunday, May 13, 2007

False dichotomies

Two boys riding bicycles arrive at the foot of a steep hill and begin their ascent. One boy, inspired by the human capacity to overcome adversity, leaves his bike in the lowest gear. The other, delighting in the empirical validation of mechanical advantage, switches to the highest gear. For one, the joy is in the numinous power of mortal transcendence, for the other it is in the luminous principles of science, but both reach the summit equally gratified.

During my months of silence, I've read a few more books:

#393 The Life of Pi, Yann Martel
A meta-narrative on story-telling, this book makes the incredible fabulously credible. But I couldn't help thinking that the work was designed for post-college reading circles, with "study questions" in the back, and a plot strewn with obvious symbolism and life-affirming messages.

#392 Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
A massive, flowing cultural history of the United States as an immigrant nation, but also a statement on gender, national, cultural ambiguity. Jeffrey Eugenides' prose is somehow both excessively exuberant and precise in metaphor, characterization, and insight.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Call me Rat Slayer

I totally came upon this by accident. I wasn't doing my semi-annual "what's my web footprint?" google snoop. I share a name with a sanitarian? I bet he makes more money than me.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Arson is Tradition

I was tickled by this. Though Swedish, apparently it's a tradition that even Americans can get into. 51-year old American tourists even. It's been burned down 22 times since 1966; sometimes it is smashed, sometimes it is burned before it is even completed. In 2004: "Two men were seen running from the blaze, one of whom was disguised as Father Christmas."

Perhaps this is the natural outcome of constant darkness and constant inebriation?

Here, you can check to see if the goat is still there.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Defense of Pure Creativity

Yanase and Maya Maxx
Originally uploaded by benkei242.

Japanese artist Maya Maxx gave a 1-hour "live painting" demonstration tonight, leaving behind one wall-sized mural depicting a pair of monkeys and the cryptically open-ended legend "everytime, everywhere, everybody." Inclusiveness aside (a concession to the throng of grade-school children in the front row scribbling with crayons?), her mission and method carried an inspiring message of anti-pragmatism: she does what she does because it is fun. Having attained considerable success in Japan, she's planning to move to NYC in 2008 to 'reset' her career and start from zero. It's as if her artistic production cannot grow and develop without an attendant transformation in herself.

Maya does not consider herself an artist who needs to self-consciously expound or theorize. She speaks of artistic process rather than artistic significance, and she exhibits a purity of purpose unsullied by pragmatism. She has no idea (or interest in?) what critics in the U.S. say about her. Her art is thus disarmingly artless, and, accustomed to being filmed on the Japanese 1-hour television format, her technique is adaptable, efficient, and rowdy with speed. She begins by outlining the eyes with pencil lines (crushed into the paper with forceful conviction), then sketching the form with brush and black ink, and finally smearing color in left-right arcs with her fingers ("the fastest way to get color onto the paper"). "To draw a male or a female, you just need to imagine in your mind a male or female, and then draw." Wonderfully unaffected.

I couldn't help thinking that her example should serve as an inspiration for anyone faced with the bewitching lure of compromise.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


I've been fixing my jaw in a frown for so long that my teeth themselves have developed a dull ache and my jowls have grown minute creases. I've witnessed the cycle of birth and death over the course of these months, the ending of a great many things, and the transformations of aging; my face has grown ever so slightly more similar to my father's. I've become ever so slightly more familiar with the ineffable operations of the cosmos. . . which to Sisyphus might be conceived as nothing more than a singular enduring grimace. Yet:
"The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."
I am one step closer to the finish line, and yes, jaw set, I am happy.

I'm still attempting to mentally unpack some movies I've seen recently:The Rules of Attraction, Volver and Babel. It's hard to discern any thematic commonalities between them, yet, in separate modalities, each of them has been on my mind.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

In Dark Trees

In Dark Trees
Originally uploaded by benkei242.
I spent the weekend under a canopy of shadows, grilling meat over a fire and avoiding showers. I came back, and my iBook underwent a logic board failure. This seems to be endemic with this particular model (and the one before it, and the one after), and now it only functions with a C-clamp pressing it into my desk.

Saturday, September 30, 2006


I thought seriously about discontinuing the blog. There's so much more important writing to be done, and very little time. I'm not sure how much more I'll be updating it. But nevertheless. . .

My mortality clock slides forward, ka-chunk as it reaches the next notch. Book 395 was Vox by Nicholson Baker. And again, ka-chunk. Novel 394 was Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. Why did I wait until I was finished with 394 to mention 395? It's long been a policy of mine not to mention sex on this blog, and Vox concerns nothing that is not infused with sex. So, you'll find no comment here about it.

But I don't intend to comment seriously on Cryptonomicon either. My response to the book over the past several weeks have already been sufficiently interwoven into my thoughts that it seems simply tedious to isolate out commentary. But one thing that I noticed was that this work, along with Empire of the Sun both employ Chinese and Japanese characters, but only imbue the Japanese characters with any interior dialogue or subjectivity. There seems to be a Western proclivity to read Japanese modernity back into time, perhaps allowing convivial feelings toward a fellow post-industrial society and coldwar ally to color historical memory. It really does seem that although the 1940s American media tended to demonize the 'Japs' as brainwashed, bloodthirsty and 'unfunny' (<-actual terms used by Life Magazine), contemporary Anglo-American writers find the Japanese mind a relatively comfortable place to situate their imaginations.

Two questions:
1. How 'accurate' can these imaginings be? (Are we just inventing and projecting?)
2. What would it take for us to be able to extend this appreciation of human subjectivity to all humans?

Tick-tock. OK. Time for bed.