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I have enough trouble as it is in trying to say what I think I know.

Samuel Beckett

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Saturday, December 31st, 2011

🦋 the calligrapher replies Ⅰ

A delightful bit of asemia that we saw at the NC museum of art: Tom Phillips*, the calligrapher replies Ⅰ.

According to the NC Museum of Art Handbook of the Collections,
"The painting is a tease. It invites and resists interpretation. Viewers can pick out a word here, a phrase there, but the artist has intentionally entrapped the content within the written maze."

(worth trying out as a wallpaper as well)

*And lo and behold! I did not recognize his name -- it turns out Mr. Phillips is the author of A Humument, now available in its 5th edition and in app form for iPad.

posted evening of December 31st, 2011: Respond
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🦋 Happy New Year(!)

2011 has been a long and interesting year. Here's hoping 2012 is likewise -- may we all live in interesting times!

We three went on vacation and spent from Christmas Day until this morning with Michele and Kaydi in Chapel Hill. Everyone had a good time, Ellen and I saw some lovely music in the person of Tim Stambaugh and looked wistfully at (and played a few of! and started thinking about building something similar to one of!) the instruments at the Electric Violin Shop in Durham, we all went on some fun hikes around the area.

In reading and writing news, I devoured The Crying of Lot 49, which I think I have not read since college(!) -- I remember loving it then; it had a similar impact the second time around. Have been working on a translation of Zupcic's "Who Killed You, Vinko Spolovtiva" and maybe "The Real Death of Vinko Spolovtiva" to go along with it, meaning to contact him with a couple of questions. Read and loved The Little Stranger on (I believe) Andrea's reccommendation... midway through Juan Gabriel Vásquez' masterful The Informers (another fantastic translation by Anne McLean -- and actually prior to Costaguana -- I am very happy to have learned of Juan Gabriel's work this year).

posted afternoon of December 31st, 2011: 1 response
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Saturday, December 24th, 2011

🦋 Who killed you, Vinko Spolovtiva?

I am setting a goal for myself of finishing my translation of Zupcic's "Vinko Spolovtiva, ¿Quién te mató?" Probably not much blogging this week.

(Oh and happy year's end!)

posted evening of December 24th, 2011: Respond
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🦋 Fiddle tunes

A vacation playlist. Composed over at cleek's place.

q. Marche au Camp, Laurie Hart (wow do I ever not listen to this record enough)
w. Down the Road, Flatt and Scruggs
e. Across the Universe, Robyn Hitchcock (Maxwell’s, November 04 — the linked version is the not-particularly-closest thing I could find)
r. Cumberland Blues, Fiddlin Doc Roberts (this shuffle is truly shining in the fiddle department)
t. Visions of Johanna, Chris Hintz
y. Dry Town Blues, Leake Co. Revelers
u. Cypress Grove, Vassar Clements
i. Ain’t That a Shame, Brian James (IRS Greatest Hits)
o. Ten Tiny Toes, One Baby Nose, Sol Ho’opi’i and his Novelty Quartette
p. Egyptian Cream, Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians.

Really recommend checking out the Laurie Hart piece, that (Danse ce Soir) is one of those records that I forget all about for long periods and then hear a song from on shuffle and fall in love with all over.

After the shuffle I am going to go spend a while listening to Laurie Hart.

posted morning of December 24th, 2011: 3 responses
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🦋 Hyvää joulua!

(Thanks for the link, Heikki!)

posted morning of December 24th, 2011: Respond

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

🦋 Fröhliche Weihnachten!

(thanks for the link, Peter!)

posted evening of December 23rd, 2011: Respond

🦋 Dancing Barefoot

Mountain Station's show on Wednesday was a lot of fun -- we got a couple of people to come out and listen to us, we got a chance to play with amplification, played our whole set plus a couple of spur-of-the-moment songs, got a chance to play with Kari sitting in on vocals...

Ellen got a tape of us playing "Dancing Barefoot" on her phone -- the audio quality is a little strange but I think our sound comes across nicely.

posted evening of December 23rd, 2011: Respond
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Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

🦋 Forking Paths

«Hasta los confines del sistema solar hay cuatro horas-luz; hasta la estrella más cercana, cuatro años-luz. Un desmedido océano de vacío. Pero ¿estamos realmente seguros de que sólo haya un vacío? Únicamente sabemos que en este espacio no hay estrellas luminosas; de existir, ¿serían visibles? ¿Y si existiesen cuerpos no luminosos u oscuros? ¿No podría suceder en los mapas celestes, al igual que en los de la tierra, que estén indicadas las estrellas-ciudades y omitidas las estrellas-pueblos?»
In Savage Detectives group read news, Rise links to some translations of Bolaño's First infrarealist manifesto.

posted evening of December 22nd, 2011: Respond
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Sunday, December 18th, 2011

🦋 Voto en blanco

Somewhere, José Saramago is laughing -- reports that the town of Bello in northern Colombia will be repeating its mayoral elections after no-one won the vote -- no-one won the vote because 56.7% of the voters marked their ballots as blank. (Reinaldo Spitaletta of El espectador writes that he knew something was going on when he saw a lot of people in Bello reading Saramago's Seeing before the elections.) Thanks for the link, Jorge!

posted evening of December 18th, 2011: Respond
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Thursday, December 15th, 2011

🦋 How to Read Novels

by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
El espectador
December 8, 2011
Although I’ve been doing it non-stop for thirty years, in spite of living my life surrounded by other people who are always doing it, I still think there are few activities so intriguing as the reading of novels.

I keep wondering why we do it: why would an adult devote his time, his mental energies, his moral intelligence to reading about things that never happened to people who never existed; how could this activity be so important, so vital, that this person would voluntarily withdraw from real life to carry it out. I've come across a few answers over the years, some of them in conversations with other addicted readers, but mostly in books here and there along the way. And indeed, the most recent of these books is truly marvelous: The Naïve and Sentimental Novelist consists of six essays in which Orhan Pamuk seeks to answer one crucial question: What happens to us when we read (and write) novels? This book is the most illuminating, most stimulating, most abundant examination of this difficult topic that I've read in years. I can do no less than to offer this urgent call to readers.

"I have learned by experience that there are many ways to read a novel," says Pamuk. "We read sometimes logically, sometimes with our eyes, sometimes with our imagination, sometimes with a small part of our mind, sometimes the way we want to, sometimes the way the book wants us to, and sometimes with every fiber of our being." In other words: there are no two identical readers of the same novel; not even two identical readings. And this fact, which seems so obvious, is what can explain the effects, the intimate, unpredictable effects the novel can have on us. What are these effects? Pamuk says we read the way we drive a car, pressing the pedals and shifting gears while watching the signals and traffic and the landscape around us: our intellect moves in a thousand and one directions in every instant. With part of our mind we do the simplest thing: follow the story. But readers of "serious" novels are doing something more: are looking constantly for the secret center of the novel, for that revelation the novel seeks to bring to light, which cannot be summarized, which can only be expressed just as the novel expresses it. Sábato was once asked what he meant to say in On Heroes and Tombs. Sábato replied, "If I could have said it any other way, I would never have written the book."

To read a novel is to leave behind a Cartesian understanding of the world. We know these things never happened, but we believe in them as if they had happened; we know they are the product of someone else's imagination, but we live through them as if they were a part of our own experience. "Our ability to believe simultaneously in contradictory states," according to Pamuk, is an essential characteristic of the reader of novels; another one is the urge to understand, not to judge, the characters. "At the heart of the novelist's craft lies an optimism," says Pamuk, "which thinks that the knowledge we gather from our everyday experience, if given proper form, can become valuable knowledge about reality." As readers, we share in this belief: that a good novel is a means of bringing a little bit of order to the chaos which reigns around us, of beginning to understand it. And that’s no small thing.

Vásquez (who I think is my favorite new author that I found out about this year) writes a weekly column for Bogotá-based newspaper El espectador. Many thanks to Mr. Vásquez for allowing me to post this translation here, and especially to Anne McLean for helping me to contact him and for passing an editorial eye over my effort. It reads much more smoothly with her suggestions incorporated.

posted evening of December 15th, 2011: 1 response
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