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Jeremy's journal

Finding a way to talk about the reading experience is, I’ve realised, the greatest pleasure of writing; where it ends is of no importance.

Stephen Mitchelmore

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Monday, May 31st, 2010

🦋 Monday random 10

This weekend I finally got around to moving all of my music files over to the (no longer) new computer... It's nice having all my music, or much of it, all in one place and easy to access. I'm working on a mix tape of songs with nice fiddle parts... In the mean time, here are ten consecutive songs in the shuffle...

  1. "When You Awake" by Bob Dylan and The Band; and what's more the version from Before the Flood with its pretty fiddle part, which track is going right onto the mix tape!
  2. "Lime House Blues" by Roy Smeck. Off a lovely mix tape from Petquality, "Pet's Guitar Picks".
  3. "The Boys of Blue Hill" from one of my practice tapes. This was a surprise for me -- turns out since I'm storing my practice sessions under the "My Music" folder, Windows Media Player considers them part of its library. Cool!
  4. "Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me" by Mississippi John Hurt.
  5. "Lonesome Road Blues," by W. Lee O'Daniel and his Hillbilly Boys. The band name sort of says it all...
  6. "Egyptian Cream" by Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians. Song I know vaguely but not too well, by the Egyptians!
  7. "King Bolden's Song", by the Louis James String Band. More fodder for the fiddle mix tape...
  8. "The Tennessee Stud," Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
  9. "Chinese Water Python," Robyn Hitchcock.
  10. "Simple Twist of Fate" by Jeff Tweedy.
I like this WMP shuffle function, it flatters my tastes in music...

Links below the fold, as I find them...

posted morning of May 31st, 2010: 2 responses
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🦋 Blu in Lisbon

UNURTH has the latest work from Blu (thanks for the link, Todd!) -- it is a collaboration with São Paulo artists Os Gémeos, on Lisbon's Avenida Fontes Pereira de Melo:

posted morning of May 31st, 2010: Respond
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🦋 The Long Weekend

Some of the nicest weather we've had all month, yesterday and today. John and I played music for a long time yesterday afternoon, sitting out in the sunny, mild backyard; then Andrea came over and we barbecued some chicken and hot dogs, and all in all it was just about the perfect spring/summer evening.

And the weekend continues! Happy Memorial Day, everyone -- Bob and Janis are coming over to jam for a while this afternoon.

posted morning of May 31st, 2010: Respond
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Saturday, May 29th, 2010

🦋 Sur

I am not the first author of the story called "The Library of Babel"; those curious as to its history and prehistory may consult the appropriate page of Sur, No. 59, which records the heterogeneous names of Leucippus and Lasswitz, Lewis Carroll and Aristotle.
—foreword to The Garden of Forking Paths
Victoria Ocampo (sister-in-law of Bioy Casares and an important figure in the Buenos Aires literary scene, and the dedicatee of the title story "The Garden of Forking Paths") published Sur from 1931 until 1992 -- regularly until 1966 and infrequently thereafter. What a wealth of literature must be in those volumes! I am not finding volume 59 online anywhere -- Abebooks has a couple of editions for sale; La Biblioteca Virtual Cervantes has digitized Volumes I - VI. Maybe the NYPL would have it in their collection... off to check in with a couple of librarian friends for advice.

Update: Found it!

posted afternoon of May 29th, 2010: 2 responses
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🦋 Memory, History, Fiction:

At UCLA in 2002, Saramago reads from some of his work:

Thanks to education blog Teach Our Children for the link.

posted morning of May 29th, 2010: Respond
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Friday, May 28th, 2010

🦋 Aurelianus' sources, and Pannonia's

I am understanding Aurelianus' motivations a little better, re-reading "The Theologians": previously I got caught up in the dispute between the Church and the Monotoni heretics, so that I missed the primary plot of the story, which is Aurelianus' striving for political stature in the Church. (This ties in nicely with the previous story, "The Dead Man," about Benjamín Otálora's striving for political stature in a gang of smugglers in Uruguay -- the two stories have little else in common.) This line seems key, following on the information of the heresy and of John of Pannonia's intention to argue against it:

Aureliano deploró esas nuevas, sobre todo la última. Sabía que en materia teólogica no hay novedad sin riesgo...* This news troubled Aurelianus deeply, principally the last bit of news. As he was well aware, there can be in theological matters no innovation free of risk...

Aurelianus is broadly read; he feels guilty at not being completely familiar with his library. (I know the feeling!) Here are some of the sources he uses in constructing his (ultimately too complex, too laboriously researched) refutation of the Monotoni:

  • On the Failure of Oracles, from Plutarch's Moralia.
  • Euripides' Bacchæ (in which Pentheus claims to see "two suns").
  • Origen's De Principiis -- Aurelianus quotes Origen's denial that Judas will betray Christ a second time.
  • Cicero's Academics -- Cicero rejects as ludicrous the possibility of multiple parallel universes.
His rival John of Pannonia uses only two Biblical passages as the base for his refutation: The closing verses of Hebrews 9, in which the epistolarian asserts that "it is appointed unto men once to die"; and Matthew's injunction against "vain repetitions" -- and he refers also to Book VII of Pliny the Younger's Natural History**.

Oh and one more source, the book which started the whole ball of heresy rolling is the twelfth volume of Augustine's City of God (Chapter 13), miraculously left undamaged when the barbarians ransacked a monastic library a century before Aurelianus' birth. What a fascinating story this is!

* Update: Well and also,

Cayó la Rueda ante la Cruz, pero Aureliano y Juan prosiguieron su batalla secreta. Militaban los dos en el mismo ejército, anhelaban el mismo galardón, guerreaban contra el mismo Enemigo, pero Aureliano no escritó una palabra que inconfesablemente no propendiera a superar a Juan. The Wheel fell before the Cross; but Aurelianus and John continued their secret battle. They both rode forth in the same army, strove for the same prize, made war against the same Enemy; but Aurelianus did not write a single word which was not -- inconfessibly -- directed at overwhelming John.
Almost hard to see how I missed this focus last time! I was caught up, I guess, in Euphorbus' challenge to the tribunal as the flames devour him -- such a dramatic scene, it overshadows the rest of the story.

** (Note that Naturalis Historia is also one of the books which Borges leaves with Funes (the memorious) the second time he sees him.)

posted afternoon of May 28th, 2010: Respond
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🦋 Farting Around

I was in St. Marks Bookshop last night (on my way to meet some friends for a wonderful dinner at the Ukranian National Home) when this fantastic book caught my eye... Almost the perfectly ideal book to buy on one's way to (what amounts to) a meeting of the Thomas Pynchon Fan Club.

Not just the cover (what caught my eye initially) is great, either; Dr. Allen's voice is a joy to read. Here is her description of the book, from the introduction:

We might think of this book as "drutling," a term that, according to John Jamieson's Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language, applies to a "dog or horse that frequently stops in its way, and ejects a small quantity of dung at intervals." It farts around, its progress nonteleological, visiting topics as the wind blows, spending too long on some ideas, returning to spend even longer on them, and undoubtedly omitting more than it digresses upon.... The fart, which disposes of the body's waste gases, is the sign par excellence of the futile endeavor: we fart around when we do nothing useful.

Dinner at the Ukranian National Home was just great. This seems like one of the very best places in the city for having dinner and chatting with a largish group of people, at least on a night when they are not busy -- only one or two other tables were occupied, and the warmth and intimacy of the dining room (and the Obolon) made everybody comfortable. I had the halušky (thick homemade gnocchi) with sauerkraut.

posted morning of May 28th, 2010: 1 response
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Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

🦋 Homeric scribblings

I've been thinking about asemic writing over the past few weeks, and I was happy to notice this passage (which I had forgotten completely) when I was rereading "The Immortal" this morning:

Quienes hayan leído con atención el relato de mis trabajos, recordarán que un hombre de la tribu me siguió como un perro podría seguirme, hasta la sombra irregular de los muros. Cuando salí del último sótano, lo encontré en la boca de la caverna. Estaba tirado en la arena, donde trazaba torpemente y borraba una hilera de signos, que eran como letras de los sueños, que uno está a punto de entender y luego se juntan. Al principio, creí que se trataba de una escritura bárbara; después vi que es absurdo imaginar que hombres que no llegaron a la palabra lleguen a la escritura. Además, ninguna de las formas era igual a otra, lo cual excluía o alejaba la posibilidad de que fueran simbólicas. El hombre las trazaba, las miraba y las corregía. Those who have been reading my story attentively, will remember that a member of the tribe had followed me -- like a dog might follow me -- up to the formless shadow of the walls. When I emerged from the final cellar, I found him in the mouth of the cave. He was stretched out on the sand, where he was languidly tracing and erasing a row of symbols like the letters in a dream, letters which one is on the verge of understanding when they flow together. At first I thought it was some kind of barbarian alphabet; but then I saw how absurd it was, to imagine that men who had never arrived at the spoken word would get to writing. Furthermore, none of the shapes was the same as any other; that excluded, or rendered unlikely, the possibility that they were symbolic. The man was drawing them, then examining them and updating them.
I've been thinking about asemic writing as a path to expressive, semantic writing, and I'm happy to think about this Immortal (who will be revealed in a few pages to be Homer) languidly tracing and correcting his asemic symbols, contemplating the possibility of communication.

posted evening of May 26th, 2010: Respond
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Monday, May 24th, 2010

🦋 Munchies in South Orange

Ellen and I had dinner Saturday at an extremely promising new restaurant, Munchie's on Irvington Ave. and Ward Pl. Main dishes are standard Jamaican fare, oxtail, escovitch, various forms of stewed and jerk and curried meat. We had the very good curry goat and the less-good (pretty dry and not flavorful) jerk chicken. What really stood out about the meal for me was the excellent quality of the side dishes -- rice and peas, steamed cabbage, mango salad -- they were just great and kept us there and interested in every bite. Definitely recommend giving this place a try! Although maybe don't order the jerk chicken. Also they are open for breakfast. I hope they last -- I got the sense from being there that the proprietors are really into what they are doing. It is great to have Caribbean food back in town after the closing of the lamented Trinidadian place on First St.

posted evening of May 24th, 2010: 2 responses
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Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

🦋 Poetry

Breyten Breytenbach is blowing me away with the depth of his insight and the eloquent rhythm of his elocution in his Intimate Stranger. It is a prose work, or something like a prose work -- I'm sort of tempted to call it poetry written in really long lines which look like paragraphs... Here he is explaining some of the difference between poetry and prose:

...Poetry is a precise and tactile tongue, even though it can be called ‘universal’ because it always speaks poetry; irrespective of the language it inhabits or hides in. “Poetry is my mother tongue.” (Yang Liang)

Visual art is a language with its own alphabet. Music is a language replete with intent and with meaning and yet without words. These and other forms of artistic expression are the primary or original languages. They differ from our everyday working verbal tools -- philosophy, science, theology, sociology and politics -- in that they're not dependent on a consensus of lexical or contextual meaning. The languages of creativeness certainly also mean (they may even make sense and sentences), but the meaning is carried by the totality of means at their disposal: color, texture, echo, absense, shape, etc. They are both non-elusive and endlessly allusive.

Every sentence of this slim book contains a vast structure of meaning and I'm having to back up and reread a lot as I take it in... What do you do with a sentence like "What's left is the ash of the poet's craft which will be remembered embers to be recalled and read like runes and stones and bones still smoldering in the streets of wind and water, so beautiful and so bleak." -- other than admire it, run your tongue over the words, repeat it to yourself as you stare off into the distance?

This is the first work of Breytenbach's I've read -- previously I had only heard of him from Coetzee's Summertime. I'm in love with his authorial voice, at least in this work where he is speaking directly to me the Reader -- "fishing for memory in time"; "inventing consciousness"; he says the working title was On the Art of Being Intimate with Strangers, and I certainly get the impression that he is being intimate with me. I wonder what his poetry is like, if I will be able to get the same feeling from work that is not explicitly addressing me.

posted morning of May 23rd, 2010: Respond
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