Sunday, January 30th, 2011
A new look: I shaved off my moustache and am digging the way the air feels on my upper lip. Also: changed my E string last night -- listen to that thing ring!
Saturday, January 29th, 2011
I am greatly enjoying New Year's mixes from Steve of Hot Rox Avec Lying Sweet Talk and from Tim W. of The Great Whatsit. Steve's is a mix of his favorite cover versions of the past few years. Mostly new listening for me, and most of the tunes are ones I'm familiar with. I always find it exciting to hear new takes on songs I love. And Tim's is a list of new songs from this year, almost none of which I've heard before or even heard of.
Here is my contribution to the disk-jockeying fray:
These are all songs I connect with discovering a new musical interest -- some quite recently, some in memory over the years as far back as high school. I hope everyone has a good, eventful year in 2011, gets to enjoy plenty of newly discovered and long-nurtured interests.
Los once: Jeremy's 2011 Mix
- "Hanohano Hawai'i" -- Sol Ho'opi'i's Novelty Trio
- "I Wouldn't Mind Dying" -- The Carter Family
- "I Love You Because" -- Ernie Tubb
- "You Met Your Match" -- Stevie Wonder
- "I Watch the Cars" -- Robyn Hitchcock
- "Starvation Blues" -- Big Bill Broonzy
- "Movin Day" -- The Holy Modal Rounders
- "Little Birdie" -- The Stanley Bros.
- "Ain't Misbehavin" -- Stéphane Grappelli
- "Belly Full of Arms and Legs" -- Robyn Hitchcock
- "Sikiliza" -- The Lafayette Afro Band
- "Pretty Polly" -- B.F. Shelton
- "Rock of Ages" -- Christian Kiefer
- "Sing You Sinners" -- Fletcher Henderson
- "Burning Up" -- Mutiny
- "Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues" -- Bob Dylan
- "I Know You Rider" -- The Grateful Dead
- "Famous Blue Raincoat" -- Leonard Cohen
- "Kanes Blues" -- The Kanek Hawai'ians
I haven't quite ironed out all the tagging issues with the mp3s of these songs. I will post a link in comments later on when I get the tape together.
Friday, January 28th, 2011
A friend of Katie Beaton's is teaching English to Korean students; as an exercise he had them fill in the speech bubbles of some of her comix with their own imagined dialog. The results are quite impressive -- what a marvelous idea for a language class activity! (Also a fun comments thread.)
(Sources: batch of comics #8, Nancy Drew #2, Shetland Pony Adventures, Return of the Saucy Mermaids, Aquaman: Defender of the Seas.)
One title, two very different songs.
The two have in common that they rock hard.
- Robyn Hitchcock's Phantom 45.
- Mr Fist's brand new tune from their third, as yet* unwritten album.
* ("As yet" as of 2008 or so.)
I am working on understanding the trajectory Hernán Rivera Letelier followed from being unknown to being, as Dorfman says, "one of the very few writers in Chile who can make a living writing books." His first novel was wildly successful, La reina Isabel cantaba rancheras, and made of him an overnight literary sensation. That was in 1996, only 8 years before Dorfman is talking with him, but you get a very firm sense of Rivera Letelier as an established literary presence. A lot can happen in eight years -- he has by this time published several novels.
Time for a story. In the fifth chapter of Desert Memories, Dorfman takes a detour from his tour of northern Chile, to relate a yarn; and he does so in a very clever way. Rivera Letelier is talking to him about the town of Pampa Unión -- this is remembered from a frame in which Dorfman is standing in the ruins of Pampa Unión on the following day, after he has left Antofagasta -- last night Rivera Letelier was telling him a story about this town of bordellos, this town which features in his novels Fatamorgana and The Art of Resurrection. The year is 1929 and the president of Chile, General Carlos Ibáñez de Campo, will be passing through the Pampa Unión station, where his train will stop for water.
The band of musicians is ready, they've been practicing for weeks. The children are waiting to sing. The train is coming, the train can be seen chugging on the horizon. And people begin to cheer and they are hushed by one of the organizers. Things have to look orderly and nice. They want to use the occasion to ask the president if he could bestow upon this town some sort of legal status, recognize them as a municipality, put them on the map.
Accept them into the fold of the great Chilean family.
"And the locomotive," Hernán had said, taking his time, savoring our interest, "pulls into the station at exactly 3:08 in the hot, transparent afternoon."
And here Rivera Letelier's wife interrupts the story (and Dorfman's retelling of the story) to tell them supper is served, and Dorfman interrupts himself to talk about the meal -- so the meal serves as a frame internal to the story we have been hearing retold. From the mention of Mari he moves further back to talk about Hernán meeting Mari in the restaurant her mother ran out of her kitchen (and here we get an elaboration on the bit that Laura Cardona referred to in her review of The Art of Resurrection), and about his working in Pedro de Valdivia and listening to the stories of the viejos -- although "miners tend to die young," the men who have been working with explosives in the fields of caliche for years are called "old men" because they look old. And much, much more about his childhood and his path to becoming one of the most successful authors in Chile...
And after all this, Dorfman brings us back to last night in Antofagasta, after they have eaten supper, and he is asking his friend,
"So what happened?"
"What happened where?"
"At Pampa Unión. When the train with the president pulled in? We're going to pass through there tomorrow, you know."
"Oh, yes. At exactly 3:08 in the afternoon the train pulls in. Everybody waits and waits, the Boy Scouts from the nearby towns, the Red Cross, the fire brigade, from every little hamlet, the basketball team, the soccer team. And the man who was going to make the speech clears his throat and gets ready to hand the president their petition to make them into a real and recognized locality and they keep on waiting while the locomotive is serviced. And then..."
"And then...?" Angélica asked.
"And then at 3:14 in the afternoon, the train pulls out of the station."
"He did not even poke his head out the window...."
"As if they did not exist," I had said to him last night, I say to myself again as I contemplate the desolation in which the whorehouses of Pampa Unión now lie, that whole town built for no other purpose than for men to make love in the desert. "As if those people never existed."
My mind is still resonating with Hernán's answer.
"Except for me," Hernán had said to us last night, whispers to Pampa Unión today. "I'm here to tell their story."
Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
(It probably helps not to adopt too rigorous an understanding of the term "nothing" in this game.)
The fourth chapter of Desert Memories, "Nomads of Nitrate," offers an interesting juxtaposition, on the third and fourth days of Ariel and Angélica's journey north. May 15th, 2002 finds Dorfman in Antofagasta, meeting with a group of pampinos who were evicted six years earlier from the salitrera Pedro de Valdivia upon its condemnation. (Also present is Hernán Rivera Letelier, whom I'm glad to see -- one of my principal goals in reading this book is to find out more about Rivera Letelier.) The previous day he had visited María Elena, the last working salitrera in Chile, and dined with Eduardo Arce, the camp's manager for Soquimich S.A.
Despite the hospitable welcome... I was not entirely at ease. ...I feel uncomfortable whenever I meet members of Chile's business class, all too aware of their complicity with Pinochet's dictatorship, which in the case of Soquimich was particularly egregious, as our dictator's then son-in-law, Julio Ponce, had been one of those who acquired these salitreras from the state when they were privatized in the early 1980's in what observers consider dubious circumstances. And Eduardo Arce hints, at some point between the abalone and the sea bass -- or was it just before we were served the meringue dessert? -- when I inquire about his family, that his father had been traumatized by the experience of losing his hacienda in the South during the agrarian land reform program of President Eduardo Frei Montalva in the late sixties -- a process carried out by some of my best friends. But this is also Chile -- a country where people, at least of the elite, sit in close proximity to their former enemies and smile and chat about vintage wines and make believe the past does not really exist, that Arce is not a supporter of Pinochet and that I have not come to the North to search for the disappeared body of Freddy Taberna, not mention that Arce would lunch tomorrow at this table at the same time that I would be seated at a table in Antofagasta with the pampinos who were evicted from their homes because of decisions taken in this very room where we were having our midday meal.
Another animal that migrated across the Bering land bridge and east and south throughout the Americas and eventually down as far as Chile: the polyommatus butterfly. Dr. Naomi Pierce of Harvard et al. have vindicated Nabokov's hypothesis regarding the introduction of this genus of butterfly to the Americas, as Carl Zimmer reports today for the NY Times. The slideshow attached to the article has to be seen to be believed.|
Below the fold, a piece from The Art of Resurrection that came to mind as I was reading this article. (I have that book on my brain now...)
At the opening of Chapter 4, the Christ of Elqui is walking along the rail line through the pampa, from Sierra Gorda to Providencia (or as the two he met in Sierra Gorda told him it is known locally, La Piojo -- they also warned him to stick to the tracks so as not to get lost in the desert) --
Across the pampa's wide expanse, the dry four o'clock wind was beginning to blow.
The Christ of Elqui, he had been hiking for a long hawl with no rest, his long hair blowing into his eyes, when he stopped; he lifted up his gaze, making a visor of his hands. All of a sudden it seemed as if he could make out the gravel lot of the plant over there where the hills began to rise -- in the pampa, such a sight gives one the illusion of seeing "a ship foundering on the desert plain," as some northern poet's verses call it. But the railroad line just followed its interminable southerly right-of-way.
Surely a little ways further, and it would turn off to that side.
Just at that moment, miraculous in the open pampa, under the brutally incandescent midday sun, a butterfly crossed over the iron rails. "An ephemeral butterfly”, he said in wonder, the Christ of Elqui; he could not imagine from how far off it had flown. It was an orange butterfly with black markings.*
As he watched it disappear, fluttering off to the east, that was when it occurred to him. Why not take the short cut, save some hiking, save some time? Clearly, more powerful than all the desert’s misdirections and illusions would be the Eternal Father, guiding his steps.
So he thought; and that is what he did.
(Is it clumsy, this having the two warn him to stay on the tracks, then having him take the short-cut and get lost? Possibly. But, very beautiful. Some of the subsequent portion of the chapter is quoted in this post
from a few months back.)
I wonder who the northern poet being quoted in the second paragraph is. The closest thing to the quoted phrase I have been able to find with Google is from Elisabeth Nox' recently published first novel La ciudad de los hombres perdidos, "Pero en ningún momento llegó a preguntarse cómo había llegado el barco a encallar en mitad del desierto." Interesting but probably not what I'm looking for...
* One of the butterflies that Nabokov named, the Pseudolucia aureliana, is native to the Atacama; however it is blue with yellow markings, oh well.
Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
I found this lovely anagram at neatorama -- it's the work of Torontonians Micah Lexier and Christian Bök. Among other things, Bök has written Eunoia (2001), consisting of five univocalic chapters and some poetry.
Drop me a line! or, sign my Guestbook.
Check out Ellen's writing at Patch.com.