Saturday, July 21, 2007


The car with the elderly, upper-middle class couple (white-haired man in khakis and polo shirt, white-haired wife in lilac pant suit) driving down into the underground parking garage of their suburban San Francisco senior apartment. The way the grassy knolls around the wine dark building, impeccably manicured, shine in the sun. The slow descent of the car through the dark entryway. The way the white rectangular door opens to reveal the darkness and the darkness that swallows the vehicle whole. The way the rectangular door closes behind them. Staring downward at the garage door and imagining the way he helps her out of the the car, the way they hobble through the darkness guided by stark light; like light over a patient being operated on. Closed eyes, positioning them now entering the garage-level elevator. This is most easily grasped: the quiet ride straight up into frorey air-conditioning.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Synaesthesia I

"The snow was falling. By the lamp light, he saw the icy patterns on the bluish windows, and the hoar-frost, like melted sugar, scintillating in the stumps of bottles spotted with gold.
A deep silence enveloped the cottage drooping in shadow.
Des Esseintes fell into revery. The fireplace piled with logs gave forth a smell of burning wood. He opened the window slightly.
Like a high tapestry of black ermine, the sky rose before him, black flecked with white.
An icy wind swept past, accelerated the crazy flight of the snow, and reversed the color order. The heraldic tapestry of heaven returned, became a true ermine, a white flecked with black, in its turn, by the specks of darkness dispersed among the flakes.
He closed the window. This abrupt transition from torrid warmth to cold winter affected him. He crouched near the fire and it occurred to him that he needed a cordial to revive his flagging spirits.
He went to the dining room where, built in one of the panels, was a closet containing a number of tiny casks, ranged side by side, and resting on small stands of sandal wood.
This collection of barrels he called his mouth organ.
A stem could connect all the spigots and control them by a single movement, so that once attached, he had only to press a button concealed in the woodwork to turn on all the taps at the same time and fill the mugs placed underneath.
The organ was now open. The stops labelled 'flute', 'horn', 'vox angelica' were pulled out, ready to be placed. Des Esseintes sipped here and there, enjoying the inner symphonies, succeeded in procuring sensations in his throat analogous to those which music gives to the ear.
Moreover, each liquor corresponded, according to his thinking, to the sound of some instrument. Dry curaçoa, for example, to the clarinet whose tone is sourish and velvety; kümmel to the oboe whose sonorous notes snuffle; mint and anisette to the flute, at once sugary and peppery, shrill but sweet; while, to complete the orchestra, kirschwasser has the furious ring of the trumpet; gin and whiskey burn the palate with their strident crashings of trombones and cornets; brandy storms with the deafening growl of tubas; while the thunder-claps of the cymbals and the furiously beaten drum roll in the mouth by means of the rakis de Chio.
He also thought that the comparison could be continued, that string quartets could play under the palate, with the violin simulated by old brandy, fumous and fine, piercing and frail; the viola by rum, louder and more sonorous; the cello by the lacerating and lingering ratafia, melancholy and caressing; with the double-bass, full-bodied, solid and dark as the old bitters. If one wished to form a quintet, one could even add a fifth instrument with the vibrant taste, the silvery detached and shrill note of dry cumin imitating the harp.
The comparison was further prolonged. Tone relationships existed in the music of liquors; to cite but one note, benedictine represents, so to speak, the minor key of that major key of alcohols which are designated in commercial scores, under the name of green Chartreuse.
These principles once admitted, he succeeded, after numerous experiments, in enjoying silent melodies on his tongue, mute funeral marches, in hearing, in his mouth, solos of mint, duos of ratafia and rum.
He was even able to transfer to his palate real pieces of music, following the composer step by step, rendering his thought, his effects, his nuances, by combinations or contrasts of liquors, by approximative and skilled mixtures.
At other times, he himself composed melodies, executed pastorals with mild black-currant which evoked, in his throat, the trillings of nightingales; with the tender chouva cocoa which sang saccharine songs like
Romances of Estelle and the 'Ah! vous dirai-je, maman' of past days.
But on this evening Des Esseintes was not inclined to listen to this music. He confined himself to sounding one note on the keyboard of his organ, by swallowing a little glass of genuine Irish whiskey."

-J.K. Huysmans, A Rebours (trans. John Howard, and myself in a few awkward spots)

This makes me want to start drinking. Heavily.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Life as Art

The mature Rainer Maria Rilke, with whom I am proud to share a birthday*, lived his life artfully. His life was inseparable from his art, and his perfectly tailored suits, bowls of fragrant decaying roses, sweet and unearthly nature were as Rilkean as the Sonnets to Orpheus.
If one decides that there is an art, a method to living, I would like to know how my life aesthetically compares, to say, a Persian paradaiza garden. The rulers of the Persian empire, from Cyrus to Darius, often desired to be remembered as gardeners rather than conquerers. The ancient walled-in gardens of naturally are very beautiful, simple and orderly. My life is chaotic. Rather, my inner-life is chaotic and neurotic while the outer-life remains somewhat orderly. But the anguish and confusion of my inner-life has nothing of the grandeur and sublimity of the abyssal opening of Beethoven's Ninth, or an asthmatic eruption in the Drei Orchesterstücke, Op. 6 of Alban Berg. That would only be wishful thinking, to attach some of that glory to my own condition.

If anything, one would admit, my inner-life is most comparable to something like the meaningless squelch of a bass-amp during a Danger Danger soundcheck at the Island Resort & Casino, Menominee County, Upper-Peninsula Michigan.

*I share this birthday with Franco, Kandinsky, Jay-Z, Marisa Tomei and Wink Martindale.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Hewitt Hackery

Of all the Republican hacks on right wing talk radio, I would say I would like Hugh Hewitt to the die the most painfully. Sure, Hannity, Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham are almost Platonic forms, eternal Ignorance and Evil made flesh (fleshier in Limbaugh's case), but they can easily be ignored for the poverty of their thinking. Like Ann Coulter, they are sideshow acts.
Medved and Prager, however, attempt to be a little less sleazy, a little more mature and "intellectual" in their writing and radio careers. Again, both horribly fail, but I give them a pass because they are Jews, and I love Jews. Hugh Hewitt, however, is a pure hack who masquerades as an intellectual. A quisling, if you will. In a recent maddening "discussion" with ABC's Jake Tapper he makes this all too clear. Tapper gets another pass, because he is a Jew; but unlike Medved and Prager, I would be willing to share my prayer shawl with him. And, yet, Tapper still has the nerve to call him a "public intellectual". Remember when public intellectuals included Bertrand Russell, Aldous Huxley, Kenneth Clark, Edward Said? I mostly don't. I was born in 1985, and my mind only came of age in the era of the recently hackish Hitchens, the irritating and hacky and recently dead Susan Sontag, and the hacky but hot Arundhati Roy. Hugh Hewitt a public intellectual? He shouldn't even be allowed to be mentioned in the same hemisphere as a Roy, or even a conservative intellectual like George Will. Bear in mind I despise most anything George Will stands for (including his love of baseball), but at least he will sometimes take a break from rhetorically lap dancing for George W. Bush.
But anyway, lets get away from politics and into something I understand to a degree. A few months ago, Hewitt had two idiot professors on his radio show, one from some idiot Christian college in California, and an idiot from the Navy. They were brought on to discuss great literature, specficially 10 Canonical works to be read over all others.
It gets off to a rocky start. I am taking it from the transcript. Keep in DAW is the Christian idiot and JMR is the Military idiot. HH is Hugh Hewitt, the blazingly honest and critically thinking intellectual.

DAW: ...You’re going to a desert island, you can only take two books. You’ve got to take The Bible, and you’ve got to take Shakespeare. What more can you say?

HH: All right, one and two. Of course, it’s going to be tough to get those done in a week.

Shakespeare, is the usual answer, but the Bible? I know they are two Christian hacks, but isn't this about literature? Of course, the Bible should be read as literature, but even then, much of it breaks down even with all the great stuff in it. Shakespeare, to his credit, almost never sucks in his great plays. Hamlet does not contain dozens of pages of iron age laws regarding menstruation and animal husbandry. Really, much of the Bible is badly written. Hopefully, the other guy will disagree? Oh, shit. It's the dude from the shitty Christian 9th tier University:

HH: Now let me interrupt you, Professor White, because I want to see if John Mark Reynolds of Biola’s Torrey program will agree with the two givens, The Bible and Shakespeare?

JMR: Well, I would agree with the two givens. So if I were put on a desert island, I would take The Bible and Plato’s Republic with me. But that might be a little eccentric. Shakespeare’s certainly a great pick, and I totally agree that we don’t have time to read, but I think that’s a problem that has to be solved. People who don’t have time to read are going to be ineffectual, rotten at what they do, and are not going to be the leaders that we need, particularly in the conservative movement today.

Plato's Republic?! Have you ever read that thing? It's fucking crazy. I love Plato's dialogues, but I would immediately drown myself if I found myself on an island with only the Bible and the Republic. Oh, but see the last paragraph of the above statement. It turns out I've been tricked. These guys don't care about art. They are ideologues who only see art as a tool to achieving their wicked ends! Now, I get it!
Later, the Christian moron surprisingly recommends reading Darwin, Nietzsche, Marx and Freud. Obviously, it's only an exercise in having said you've read those and understood them and much prefer the book with the arbitrary menstruation and cattle husbandry laws from 3000 years ago. Hewitt also recommends reading Darwin (as if that makes you able to understand modern biology, or Evolutionary theory following the synthesis with genetics). Read the talk of the men who thirst for knowledge:

HH: Now I’ve got to ask David Allen White, before I go to your list to respond, that’s a lot of wasted time, in my view. I view Freud as a waste of time, I view Marx as a good joke on everyone who fell for it, and so I’m just not sure I would invest any time in Marx and…not Darwin, Darwin you’ve got to read, but Marx and Freud. What do you think?

DAW: I wouldn’t read Darwin, either.

Yeah, it's totally best to not read all those colossally important books for Western culture and by far the most important thinkers (for better or worse) of the last 120 years. It's best to just read the Bible, maybe lil' James Patterson before hittin' the hay. Immediately following that, the Christian idiot gives us more evidence of things not seen:

And the curious thing, Hugh, is, and you’ll notice there’s some big names that are not on my list. In fact, nowhere on my list are you going to find the name James Joyce, who I consider one of the big frauds of the 20th Century.

Wow! Where did that come from? I like how this pathetic English teacher from some pathetic Christian college, most likely made up of maladjusted, sociopath virgins who were educated by their mothers in the storm shelter, can just throw Joyce, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche and Darwin to the dogs with a slight twist of his wrist. Surely, the Navy guy, will find the bashing of the greatest writer in English since Shakespeare ridiculous?:

JMR: Oh, we’re in total agreement there.

Ahhh! It's too much. Read on:

DAW: Most people call Ulysses the greatest novel of the 20th Century. The irony, of course, is that nobody’s ever read it, or could read it. It’s a complete and total bore. The man, as with Darwin and Freud and Marx, was possessed of enormous talent, and a fine mind, the uses to which all that was put, I view as a complete waste of the gifts that they were given, and I wouldn’t waste my time going through them. Most of those writers, I think, you can get a sense of secondhand, and I wouldn’t take the time to read them myself, even though Heaven knows, I was forced through a lot of them.

Now, see, he is not only exhibiting his abhorrent taste, but also his ignorance. He couldn't understand Ulysses, and therefore, no one did. I read it when I was in High School and loved it with no pretense. This is ridiculous.

So I need not show how these guys are idiots. Most of the time, Hewitt steps back and lets them have their inane party. It's like watching two retarded children compare helmets. But I am being too cruel to the Mentally Handicapped. Hewitt, however, doesn't waste a chance in showing his complete an utter ignorance of the same culture he mourns lost through "liberal relativism". A telling exchange:

JMR: If you’re at war, you ought to be reading Boethius, the Consolation of Philosophy.

HH: Wait. What? That is alien to me. I have no idea what you just said.

DAW: Oh, it’s a great work, Hugh.

JMR: Yeah, it’s the work that deals with fate and God’s relationship to fate. The world’s a tough place to live in, and how should we handle the tough things that happen to us?

HH: Go back over the title and the author again slowly.

JMR: It’s Boethius, the Consolation of Philosophy. And for about five hundred or six hundred years, it was the most widely read book in the Western world.

HH: Wow.

Wow, indeed. Hugh Hewitt, Public Intellectual, has never heard of one of the famous books of classic literature/philosophy ever written. He claims to be a great admirer of Montaigne. Montaigne would scoff at such a worthless ideologue and quisling. Hewitt would ask him for an autograph, and perhaps give him a copy of "Painting the Map Red: Why Republicans Must Take Over Once More to Assure the Flowing of Pestilent Blood Through the Streets". Montaigne would smile weakly, sigh inwardly and go back to planting his cabbage.

But these are the people we must deal with now.
Book Search Irritation

There are always a few books I hope to find in a local used bookstore, but never do. The last month or two, for example, have been home to fruitless searches for Thomas Carlyle's Sator Resartus, Gottfried Keller's Green Henry, a somewhat complete volume of Georg Trakl, Walter Pater's book on the Renaissance and Cliff Pickover's book on time. I am aware that I can easily buy these on Amazon, but I find it more fun to see if they turn up. I cannot forgive myself for paying 14$ on Broch's Death of Virgil through Amazon after never seeing it in bookstores. Of course, I recently spotted it in a used bin for 5$ in perfect condition at a store in Uptown. That 9$ could have easily bought all those cheap Penguin editions of Cao Xuequin's five-volume Story of the Stone, as well as a Sprite and a Nascar shirt from the Dollar Store.

I am a hit at parties.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Greatest Songs of All-Time (Ongoing Series. Mind-Expanding)

You may have noticed that I love Brazilian music, especially the music of Milton Nascimento. He will go down, when all is said and done (is all said and done?), as one of the greatest South American composers of the 20th century. He is surely one of the most unique singers alive as well. A total genius in all respects.
This is a duet with Nana Caymmi on the stunning song "Cais" (which roughly translates, I believe, to "Seashore" or, less beautifully, "Wharf"), from Clube de Esquina. Buy that album immediately, sinner. It is one of the greatest I have ever heard, and it jockeys alongside The Band's self-titled, XTC's Skylarking, The Beatles White Album, Wayne Shorter's Speak No Evil and Van Morrison's Veedon Fleece as my all-time favorite non-classical album. Put your trust in me reader! I will never let you down! I am yours!

oes playing Fantasy Baseball really satisfy all of your aching baseball fantasies?
MySpace Generation

"And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation."
-Mark (8: 11-12)

The difference between the young people of this generation and the Pharisees of Jesus' day, is that the young people of today are too busy not doing anything to seek a sign.

However, an advantage the children of corporate mass media have over 1st century Palestinians: if one does not care for the local miracle rabbi, he can remove him from his MySpace Top 8.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Art of Translation

When someone says "I am down to earth", they mean "I am boring".

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Second Viennese School as Bomb Pop

Bomb Pops, three flavored confection. American in origin.

Berg occupies the top of the stick, the Cherry. The color of blood, the color of the beating heart. Despite his flavorful cherry flavor, Berg has a secret geometry; the ridges that encircle the stick equidistant, and a protruding top aching into the aether. It is a kabbalistic alchemy that will bring about sleep and nothingness.

Schoenberg occupies the bottom of the stick, the Blue Raspberry. He is the base, the welder of the blue veins that turn red when Berg will bring them up into the air.

Webern is the middle of the stick, the Lime. Webern is sublime because he occupies a middle stage, in which only sparks and clouds exist. Lime, while perhaps not being your favorite flavor, occupies the largest portion of the three-part confection. Considering that you enjoy it top to bottom, the lime can only serve as a place where you come from, or one from where you go.

The stick, it is said, was put together by various carpenters (mostly Germanic) since the days of Bach. The wood is known for being tough to break.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Patriotic American Update

My Fourth of July was non-eventful and distinctly American in some ways. I sat inside while it rained and read. I played Super Nintendo (the only video game system I have ever liked) for a bit in my room. Listened to music while reading (Keith Jarrett's great Carnegie Hall solo concert album from 2006). I also engaged in the American pastime of watching To Catch a Predator.
To Catch a Predator is one of those shows that thrives in stasis. Every episode is the same. The pedophiles come to the house bearing gifts, are humiliated by leather-throated Chris Hanson
and precede to leave the room before being unnecessarily tackled and screamed at by 29 SWAT guys.
After watching that I practiced some piano (Bach's G-minor Fugue from Clavier and Fauré's 6th Prélude).

The Fourth of July has never been a favorite of mine. I have no desire to celebrate a country that I have recently learned has had its named changed to "Hannity's America". Also, I don't care for the holiday due to the fact that the fireworks disturb my cat Freddy and make animals scared. This is unacceptable. Freddy also celebrated his 11th birthday yesterday, making the squealing and popping outside the window and the drunken screaming of partying kids that much more unacceptable.

I also decided yesterday to write on this blog more. It may become a compendium of small fragments, whatever comes to mind about things. Hopefully it will still be good to read. I also hope to add (by the time you read this?) a bar on the side of books I'm reading or CDs I'm listening to; this is a feature I love on blogs, and one that would spare me the constant long "What I'm Lookin' At!" posts. Mostly I hope to start discussion. Also I like to have a record of what I've read and looked at.

Have a patriotic weekend!