February 28, 2006
February 26, 2006
In front of me lies a copy of Melville’s forgotten novel, Pierre; Or, The Ambiguities - among other objects, of course. This edition, checked out today from the Cornell University Library, contains a host of dirty illustrations by Maurice Sendak (of Where the Wild Things Are fame), every one of which accentuates the sexual regions of the subjects, & not subtly. The titular character wears a red cape & a monochrome blue onesy, every perfect muscle exaggerated thru the clothes like a Blake Illumination. As Melville lovers love to find innuendos in his books, there is much hidden sexual content, sometimes repressed, sometimes easily extracted from ambiguous imagery (“the waves curling & hissing around us like the erected crests of enraged serpents.” -Moby-Dick), sometimes blatant. I’ve only heard one Sendak scholar give a lecture, at a Lewis Carroll Society conference in Princeton, & he spoke at length about these series of dirty cartoons of Alice, which looked to me more like doodles, where she’s screwing the rabbit, &c.; then he set to a Freudian reading of Higglety Pigglety Pop!
Pierre so far has a lot for Sendak to be Freudian about. Pierre doesn’t have a sister, so he insists on calling his widowed mother “Sister Mary”, & they have quite a flirtatious relationship. She, in return, much admires her own beauty in his. (Later, after much meditation on his father’s nature, he realizes that he is his father... see the quote at the end of this posting.) Pierre is affianced to a gay little blonde named Lucy, & his life seems to be on track, but he keeps thinking about this face he once saw. (In typical Melvillian psychology, fifty or so rambling & excited pages are devoted to the nature of obsession.) The face in question is a girl’s, full of haunting, lovely sorrow (“...he seemed to see the fair ground where Anguish had contended with Beauty, & neither being conqueror, both laid down on the field.”) Of course, the reader thinks he must have some dark crush on her, but then he receives a letter from her in which she admits to being his cursed bastard sister. Of course, his obsession is somehow rooted in the mysteries of ancestry, already a prominent theme in many of Melville’s tangents. The bachelor life of one’s father is one of those existential impossibilities, failures of the imagination to know the truth, like Shakespeare’s Leontes on the impossibility of inalienable certainty that you are the biological father of your children.
Anyway, Pierre then unravels the mystery in his mind, based on what little he knows of his father. The are two portraits of his father, one large public one which his mother prefers, & another one which, because of her dislike, Pierre keeps hidden in his closet. There is something mysteriously ambiguous about it, & his aunt told Pierre her brother was tricked into sitting for it, back in the days when he was courting this French girl whom the town thought below his marrying. His artist cousin had pretended to be painting something else whilst the elder Pierre told of his exploits. & altho his mother probably never knew the story of the picture; hence, why she didn’t think it was a very good likeness of him - she never saw that side of his face! Why, Aunt Dorothea, did he initially resist being painted?
[The artist Cousin Ralph] “‘used to tell me, that being in your father’s room some few days after the last scene I described, he noticed that there was a wonderful work on Physiognomy, as they call it, in which the strangest & shadowiest rules were laid down for detecting people’s innermost secrets by studying their faces. And so, foolish cousin Ralph always flattered himself, that the reason your father did not want his portrait taken was, because he was secretly in love with the French young lady, & did not want his secret published in a portrait; since the wonderful work on Physiognomy had, as it were, indirectly warned him against running that risk.’”
Revelatory faces, like the first one that possessed Pierre, which stir gloom into his pristine life, uncovering family secrets, often with perverse sexual overtones. All these conclusions on very little evidence - a gossipy aunt, a lonesome face seen once, a painting by an amateur artist. Melville himself casts doubts on the authenticity or reliability of these clues - again like the aforementioned Leontes, who needs no Iago to convince him of his wife’s infidelity & the bastardship of his son (“But to be paddling palms & pinching fingers, As they now are, & making practiced smiles, As in a looking-glass...” -A Winter’s Tale, I.i). Or, like Starbuck, vainly reasoning with Ahab that the evil is not in the beast Whale but in the human mind which projects it.
What then of the information age, where we are surrounded by millions of images with ambiguous glances & implications? Pierre needed only two to possess him. I once got in trouble for a picture taken of me in England with a drunk Welsh girl, with whom I had barely ever spoken. If the circumstances, emotions, dramas, behind the taking of the photograph were impossible to imagine to my current friends, what will my children make of it, or my poor biographer, or if the lost girl or any of her friends or relatives gets a hand on it, now or whenever. I think my innocence lies in the hesitancy of my right hand, not holding her in any familiar way. I can hardly recall what I was thinking or doing what itwas shot. Our faces are ambiguous.
February 25, 2006
February 22, 2006
This is a popular chip in my diet, mainly due to its prudent pricing (usually $1.99) & its far-reaching availability. As far as brands of Tortilla Chips carried by corner stores & bad supermarkets go, it is not too salty (like Tostitos), or expensive. A simple, thin, yellow or white chip, they are rarely all broken by the time you reach the bottom. I assume their integrity is wholely natural.
It had always been one of the lesser ambitions of Pierre, to sport a flowing beard, which he deemed the most noble corporal badge of the man, not to speak of the illustrious author.
As frequent readers of my 'blog will surely know, I eat the tortilla chip plain, straight up, no salsa. I have nothing against dips, especially not ones made with chickpeas, but I find they slow down one’s chip-per-minute average. Last night, I put back a bag of Santitas while drinking a twelve-pack of Saranac’s Adirondack Lager & learning to play Dance Dance Revolution Extreme with ex-Miss February, Melinda Windsor. (She consistently scored higher than me, although I had a bit of an edge on the more "hip-hopping" songs.)
There is great truth in Alphonse Karr’s remark that modern men are ugly because they do not wear their beards.
The ingredients in Santitas are refreshingly simple: Corn, oil, & salt. Compare that to something like Doritos - which, by the way, two varieties - the “Extreme Zesty Sour Cream & Cheddar” & the “Salsa Verde” - are not vegetarian. However, Jane Goodall, in her great new book Harvest for Hope, warns those conscious of boycotting genetically modified foods to avoid anything not labeled ‘organic’ which contains corn, soy, canola, or cotton. More than 75% of each of those crops in America has been messed with, a “self-perpetuating pollution” (says Prince Charles) with known & unknown consequences to the health of the Earth & the human body. There are many delicious organic tortilla chips on the market, Garden of Eatin’ heading the pack, but they generally run at about twice the price.
When they told it unto David, he sent to meet them, because the men were greatly ashamed:
The marketing of Santitas is seemingly straight-forward: low-brow & Mexican. “Auténtico estilo Mexicano” encircles a buxomly Mexican babe holding a basket of corn. However, of course, this is an American product produced by Frito Lay out of Plano, Texas. Why is everything is this country either all-American but made in Sri Lanka or an imitation import? There is also a subtle innuendo with the aforementioned buxomly Mexican babe - her elbow is conspicuously over the huge “T-I-T” in Santitas. Do corn chips have a largely male market? Do men tend to prefer salty snacks over sweet?
Lord, I could not endure a husband with[out] a beard on his face!
There is nothing to be gained by a well-shaven face, save a short-lived political career & a wife with a chest like a cricket bat.
February 21, 2006
February 19, 2006
A young Iranian-Texan boy listens to his older brother, who is dying of leukemia, tell the story of Omar Khayyam, which it is his hereditary duty to keep & relate. When the brother dies, the boy steals his passport, whisks off to England, finds the granddaughter of an English Rubaiyat scholar (Vanessa Redgrave) who has a collection of versions of the poem (my favorite plot twist). She explains to the boy that poetry is just words that make us feel special. The boy’s mother is alerted that he snuck across the Atlantic, but he manages to make it to Iran before his dad catches up with him. There, he finds his dying grandfather, who can fill in the ending of the biography.
The bulk of the film is the 11th Century flashback, clunkily inlaid with the modern quest. Omar Khayyam is alarmingly handsome, tall & usually beardless (Bruno Lastra). I had always assumed the secularist poet was more controversial in his day, but the movie shows him co-opted by the Seljuq ruler, & becoming a beloved court astronomer (part calander updater, part astrologer). His margins-of-Islam quatrains of sex & wine are a bit of a secret, or at least not often discussed - indeed, the movie all-but-ignores them & their issues. The actor who plays the Sultan looks like a drunk Borscht-belt comedian, ironically smirking to himself about his very presence in this movie.
Omar & his childhood friend Hassan were both in love with the slave Darya, who is sold & lost before either can marry her. During the search, Hassan becomes a religiously-fanatic Assassin, & tells Omar that God willed her missing, altho to what purpose is left unmentioned. Omar’s longing, with its mystic overtones, its language of wine & stars, is probably meant to parallel the kid’s quest to keep the story alive - a better writer could have done beautiful things with that. A rock on a necklace which Omar gave Darya has become the one worn by the Keeper thru the generations, as if the love is a curse which must be sought.
Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia has parallel searches going on-stage. The 18th-Century plot has a young girl searching for fractals & chaos theory, the 20th-Century plot has historians searching for clues to the gaps in her life. The two searches interweave, & are eventually confused as the actions begin to occupy the same stage. Meanwhile, the characters cleverly explain some of the concepts of chaos theory, which inform the audience’s appreciation of Stoppard’s plot devices.
Mashayekh makes no attempt to teach us about Omar’s symbolism, or connect the imagery of the poetry to the imagery of the screen, or combine the two plots in any informative way. He could have related the controversies of Omar’s life - religio-political assassins using violence to discuss theosophical debates - to any number of contemporary issues, let alone the struggles of the modern boy’s life & quest. As in most biopics about geniuses (Beethoven, Einstein, count them), the intellectual conversations are stripped & dumbed down beyond plausibility. Omar & Hassan at one point have an angry debate on reason versus faith. The language is two-dimensional enough to leave the youngest or stupidest viewer uninterested. I refuse to accept that films, even with wide audience release, can’t take on even the simplest of intellectual discussions. Film is often consistently revolutionary in other progressive artistic thoughts - cinematography, genre-awareness, special effects, &c. A better writer could have deepened the discussion on secularization (reason verses faith), thoroughly infused it into the modern plot (old world versus Texas), maybe even adding some commentary on hot topics like Religious Terrorism. A great writer could have conflated or confused the quest-plots, pervaded the ideas & language of the old poetry into the script, & educated an audience entertainingly on subjects political, literary, theological, & even romantic.
February 16, 2006
-Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, or The Whale (1851), Ch. 4, "The Counterpane"
He seemed to take to me quite as naturally & unbiddenly as I to him; & when our smoke was over, he pressed his forehead against mine, clasped me round the waist, & said that henceforth we were married.
-ibid., Ch. 10, “Bosom Friends”
The beards of the young men glisten’d with wet, it ran from their long hair,
Little streams pass’d all over their bodies.
An unseen hand also pass’d over their bodies,
It descended tremblingly from their temples & ribs.
The young men float on their backs, their white bellies bulge to the sun, they do not ask who seizes fast to them.
They do not know who puffs & declines with pendant & bending arch,
They do not think whom they souse with spray.
-Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”, from Leaves of Grass (1855)
I can’t make it on a couple high-altitude fucks once or twice a year! You are too much for me Ennis, you sonofawhoreson bitch! I wish I knew how to quit you.
-Jack Twist, from Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain (2005, dir. Ang Lee)
February 15, 2006
Date: Sat, 28 Jan 2006 16:53:08 -0800
From: John Welsch < email@example.com >
To: James Welsch < firstname.lastname@example.org >
CC: Lee Welsch < email@example.com >, Sue Welsch < firstname.lastname@example.org >
One of the books you gave me to carry home from Saint Louis, "All the Pretty Horses", looked interesting, so I started it on the plane home. I just finished it. I had to read it with my Franklin electronic Spanish dictionary near me to work my way through the Mexican dialog. About one in five words didn't translate. I called them "texmex" words. At a Rotary chili dinner last Thursday, I was telling Alan Tiras (he and Natalie are from Texas) about it, and he said that "texmex" is the food, and the language is "Spanglish" or "Texican".
I rather liked the coming of age book, and really enjoyed Texas dialect and descriptions of the horses and country of south Texas and north Mexico. How did you get thru the Spanglish?
Lee gave me a book for Xmas "What the Dormouse Said" by John Markoff. It's premise is that the 1960's counterculture shaped the 1970's computer revolution in the area around Stanford. I've finished the Introduction and started the first chapter. I remember lots of the characters, especially Doug Engelbart, the inventor of the mouse, whom I used to jog and eat lunch with on the Stanford practice track. I'm looking forward to reading it between bouts of TurboTax.
February 14, 2006
Kar Wai Wong’s film, In the Mood for Love, tells of a love affair thru the eyes of the cuckolded spouses - the lovers are never seen. When the lost husband & wife realize the iniquity, they attempt to reenact it as they imagine their spouses would have done it, including details like meals & choice of words. The movie is endlessly sad. Marías’s narrator is similarly guessing, but about his own lost beloved. The character Natalia Manur is a phantom in the book, as if he in his dreams can remember the love for her, her situation & her affliction, but nothing of her spirit or beauty. The bulk of the content dwells on the narrator’s loneliness, an odd quality for a book about the attainment of love. Of course, we expect an opera singer to a be a megalomaniac, & loneliness is the ultimate selfishness. Love as a desire, when reaching for it or waking to find it missing, is man disconnected from the external, isolated from one’s perceptions - as a narrator, subjective & unreliable.
His selective omniscience relies on jealousy’s imagination. He can meticulously guess at the nights she spends with her husband, at the smell of his cologne, on if he is wearing his reading glasses or not.
Borges writes of a historian who uncovers parallels to Macbeth & Julius Caesar: “The idea that history might have copied history is mind-boggling enough; that history should copy literature is inconceivable...” The historian then comes to the conclusion that the conspirators had planned the assassination based on Shakespeare, to redeem their leader, who as it happened was the traitor. The dialog & action may be based on some trope, but the point of the story, “The Theme of the Traitor & the Hero”, is the shifting roles, the huge potential fluxuation in essence.
Marías plays with these shifting roles in his contemplation on husband-wife-lover-pander. He considers the waxing eccentricity of Hörbiger, the tenor who sings Otello, whose fading glory is accompanied by a refusal to start the opera until the audience is full. The theater has to hire more & more ushers to fill the empty seats as his popularity wanes & his reputation for tardiness is known. On his last performance, made-up as the Moor of Venice, “with the help of a small Japanese telescope which he sometimes used to inspect the vaster auditoria, he espied with horror an empty seat in the antepenultimate row of the right-hand aisle, [...] the magnificent Hörbiger stepped onto the stage, climbed down into the stalls area, strode through it, to the astonishment of an already irritable public, & sat down in that one accusing seat, thus completing the audience that had been his downfall.”
Was this an act of selflessness or selfishness? Which best befits the lover, or the true Man of Feeling? The husband has the object but not the passion, the lover the passion but not the object. The wife is reduced to the object, & therefore cannot be described nor remembered in dreams. The pander becomes the circumstance, & henceforth boundlessly mutable. Hörbinger, by the end, has completely bought his audience, & when he becomes the last member, absurdly self-fulfilling his love, it is the end of his career, his life. Manur has bought his wife, but each day he sees less of her soul. All the male lovers, either in the act of attaining or losing, are, like the desperate traveling salesmen repeatedly mentioned in the book, homeless. The love that ends in conquest & marriage or the love that ends in suicide are both loves of selfishness.
February 13, 2006
I see thy lovely eagles round;
& thy flames of soft delusion.”
February 12, 2006
Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2005 16:52:38 -0700
From: John Welsch < email@example.com >
Subject: Yamaha PSR 500M
To: James Welsch <firstname.lastname@example.org>
CC: Sue Welsch <email@example.com>, Roy Welsch < firstname.lastname@example.org >
James, sorry I couldn't fix your keyboard. The unit should have had a fender or a box to protect the cords attached at the back. I think I've resoldered the MIDI connectors and the power socket before. Maybe on a snowy day, I'll see what I can do to piece together the printed circuit board and jumper the power connections with solder.
We bought the keyboard at Musicians Choice music shop in Ventura, CA, on 6 November 1991 for $519. It was your Xmas present.
Date: Tue, 30 Aug 2005 15:37:52 -0700 (PDT)
From: Jonathan Shapiro <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Death of the Yamaha PSR 500M
To: James Welsch <firstname.lastname@example.org>
somewhere, a very sad midi realization of taps is playing.
February 11, 2006
I have been reading books wherever I am staying, but sometimes when I go somewhere else, I have not finished the book. I read Part One of The Red Tent at Lauren Morgan's place in Fort Collins. What happens in Part Two? I'll have to wait until I stay with someone else who has it.
In Jennie Lee's apartment in Brooklyn, I read out loud all but the last twenty pages of Cat's Cradle. What happens in the end? The narrator is a Bokononist, a religion based on lies, with an openmindedness that puts Unitarian Universalists to shame. The Wikipedia entry is hardly sufficient: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bokononism.
Bokonon writes: "Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God."
Q.E.D., if the Labaree house in Brookline, Mass., doesn't have Vonnegut, then it is not "sucky," as a middle schooler might deem it, but rather blessed by God; so pick up Roz Chast if that's what's there. Do you expect every reviewer in the New York Times or the Onion A.V. to have read the entire book which they review?
"God never wrote a good play in his life." -Bokonon
Mix in One Bowl: -2 cups flour (half whole wheat / half white)
-1/8 teaspoon baking powder
-1/8 teaspoon baking soda
-1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/8 teaspoon nutmed
Mix in Another Bowl: -2 big eggs (free range, my God, people)
-1/2 butter (2 sticks)
-2 cups sugar (half brown, half unrefined white)
-1 tablespoon almond extract (or vanilla, if you're boring)
Mix bowls together! Add: -1 cup oats
-2 cups PUFFED MILLET (I used arrowhead mills brand)
-some craisins (or raisins)
Put dough in cookie shapes on cookie tray
Bake, top shelf oven, 350 degrees F, for about 8 minutes.
Famous Millet Cookies! Millet is an ancient grain, a complete protein!