Sunday, December 30, 2007

One more

Our primal ancestors told stories to themselves about the animals that they killed for food and about the supernatural world to which the animals seemed to go when they died... "The animal master" held over human beings the power of life and death: if he failed to send the beasts back to be sacrificed again, the hunters and their kin would starve.

Thus early societies learned that "the essence of life is that it lives by killing and eating; that's the great mystery that the myths have to deal with." The hunt became a ritual of sacrifice, and the hunters in turn performed acts of atonement to the departed spirits of the animals, hoping to coax them into returning to be sacrificed again.

Campbell surmised a "magical, wonderful accord" growing between the hunter and the hunted, as if they were locked in a "mystical, timeless" cycle of death, burial, and resurrection. Their art and oral literature gave form to the impulse we now call religion.

The Power of Myth

Expect about 10000 more posts like this

He agreed that the "guiding idea" of his work was to find "the commonality of themes in world myths, pointing to a constant requirement in the human psyche for a centering in terms of deep principles."

"You're talking about a search for the meaning of life?" I asked.

"No, no, no," he said. "For the experience of being alive."

The introduction to The Power of Myth.

Martha Stewart Grandpa overstuffed pillow

Best pillow ever, hands down.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ricky Nelson


I wish I was a apple
Hangin' in a tree
And everytime my sweetheart passed
She'd take a bite off me

She told me that she loved me
She called me sugar plum
She threw her arms around me
I thought my time had come

Get along home, Cindy-Cindy
I'll marry you sometime

I wish I had a needle
As fine as I could sew
I'd sew her in my pocket
And down the road I go

Cindy hugged and kissed me
She wrung her hands and cried
Swore I was the prettiest thing
That ever lived or died

Get along home, Cindy-Cindy
I'll marry you sometime

Friday, December 28, 2007

David Byrne on music

"In the past, music was something you heard and experienced — it was as much a social event as a purely musical one. Before recording technology existed, you could not separate music from its social context. Epic songs and ballads, troubadours, courtly entertainments, church music, shamanic chants, pub sing-alongs, ceremonial music, military music, dance music — it was pretty much all tied to specific social functions. It was communal and often utilitarian. You couldn't take it home, copy it, sell it as a commodity (except as sheet music, but that's not music), or even hear it again. Music was an experience, intimately married to your life. You could pay to hear music, but after you did, it was over, gone — a memory."

Spontaneous Synchronization - Part 2

Spontaneous Synchronization - Part 1

From a paper by S.H. Strogatz: "In the animal world, groups of Southeast Asian fireflies provide a spectacular example of synchronization. Along the tidal rivers of Malaysia, Thailand and New Guinea, thousands of fireflies congregate in trees at night and flash on and off in unison. When they first arrive, their flickerings are uncoordinated. But as the night goes on, they build up the rhythm until eventually whole treefuls pulsate in silent concert."

Thai Elephant Orchestra


Crystallization is a concept, developed in 1822 by the French writer Stendhal, which describes the process, or mental metamorphosis, in which unattractive characteristics of a new love are transformed into perceptual diamonds of shimmering beauty. He used this as a metaphor for love after visiting a salt mine and observing the physical process of crystallization.

Stendhal wrote: "I call 'crystallization' that action of the mind that discovers fresh perfections in its beloved at every turn of events."

Stendhal Syndrome

Stendhal Syndrome is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly 'beautiful' or a large amount of art is in a single place. The term can also be used to describe a similar reaction to a surfeit of choice in other circumstances, e.g. when confronted with immense beauty in the natural world.

Stendhal wrote: "I was in a sort of ecstasy, from the idea of being in Florence, close to the great men whose tombs I had seen. Absorbed in the contemplation of sublime beauty ... I reached the point where one encounters celestial sensations ... Everything spoke so vividly to my soul. Ah, if I could only forget. I had palpitations of the heart, what in Berlin they call 'nerves.' Life was drained from me. I walked with the fear of falling."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Furnace

"Later that evening, before he went to bed, he said: 'This is symptomatic of my condition: You're my daughter, and I'm proud of you, but I have nothing to say to you.'

"He left to get ready for bed, and then came back into the room wearing dazzling white pajamas. My mother asked me to admire his pajamas, and he stood quietly while I did. Then he said: 'I don't know what I will be like in the morning.'

"After he went to bed, my mother showed me a picture of him forty years before sitting at a seminar table surrounded by students. 'Just look at him there!' she said in distress, as though it were some sort of punishment that he had become what he was now - an old man with a beaked profile like a nutcracker."

Lydia Davis

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Hey that's what I'm livin' for

I'm trying to stop posting so many YouTube clips but I can't help myself. There are just so many gems.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Mike the Headless Chicken

"On Monday, September 10, 1945, farmer Lloyd Olsen of Fruita, Colorado, had his mother-in-law around for supper and was sent out to the yard by his wife to bring back a chicken. Olsen failed to completely decapitate the five-and-a-half month old bird named Mike. The axe missed the jugular vein, leaving one ear and most of the brain stem intact.

"On the first night after the decapitation Mike slept with it under his wing; it was this that convinced Olsen to reprieve Mike from the cooking pot.

"Despite Olsen's botched handiwork, Mike was still able to balance on a perch and walk clumsily; he even attempted to preen and crow, although he could do neither. After the bird did not die, a surprised Mr. Olsen decided to continue to care permanently for Mike, feeding him a mixture of milk and water via an eyedropper; he was also fed small grains of corn. Mike occasionally choked on his own mucus, which the Olsen family would clear using a syringe.

"When used to his new and unusual center of mass Mike could easily get himself to the highest perches without falling. His crowing, though, was less impressive and consisted of a gurgling sound made in his throat, leaving him unable to crow at dawn. Mike also spent his time preening and attempting to peck for food with his neck." (From Wikipedia but it's true!)

Ana Mendieta

This is long but good

"Those who bestow sellouthood upon their former heroes are driven to do so by, first and foremost, the unshakable need to reduce. The average one of us - a taker-in of various and constant media, is absolutely overwhelmed - as he or she should be - with the sheer volume of artistic output in every conceivable medium given to the world every day - it is simply too much to begin to process or comprehend - and so we are forced to try to sort, to reduce. We designate, we label, we diminish, we create hierarchies and categories. But you know what is easiest of all? When we dismiss.

"The thing is, I really like saying yes. I like new things, projects, plans, getting people together and doing something, trying something, even when it's corny or stupid. I am not good at saying no. And I do not get along with people who say no. When you die, and it really could be this afternoon, under the same bus wheels I'll stick my head if need be, you will not be happy about having said no.

"What matters is that you do good work. What matters is that you produce things that are true and will stand. What matters is that the Flaming Lips's new album is ravishing and I've listened to it a thousand times already, sometimes for days on end, and it enriches me and makes me want to save people... What matters is not the perception, nor the fashion, not who's up and who's down, but what someone has done and if they meant it. What matters is that you want to see and make and do, on as grand a scale as you want, regardless of what the tiny voices of tiny people say. Do not be critics, you people, I beg you. I was a critic and I wish I could take it all back because it came from a smelly and ignorant place in me, and spoke with a voice that was all rage and envy. Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them. It is a fuckload of work to be open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting, but Christ, that is what matters. What matters is saying yes.

"I say yes, and Wayne Coyne says yes, and if that makes us the enemy, then good, good, good. We are evil people because we want to live and do things. We are on the wrong side because we should be home, calculating which move would be the least damaging to our downtown reputations. But I say yes because I am curious. I want to see things... Saying no is so fucking boring.

"And if anyone wants to hurt me for that, or dismiss me for that, for saying yes, I say Oh do it, do it you motherfuckers, finally, finally, finally."

Dave Eggers

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happiest Moment

"If you ask her what is a favorite story she has written, she will hesitate for a long time and then say it may be this story that she read in a book once: an English language teacher in China asked his Chinese students to say what was the happiest moment in his life. The student hesitated for a long time. At last he smiled with embarrassment and said that his wife had once gone to Beijing and eaten duck there, and she often told him about it, and he would have to say the happiest moment of his life was her trip, and the eating of the duck."

Lydia Davis

Siki Siki Baba

This is pretty much all I listen to right now.

Things I want to be over

The Walk Hard trailer, the cold weather, and this commercial:

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wagon wheel pasta/Locatelli Pecorino Romano

I wanted to post something life affirming and I can't think of anything more appropriate than a big dish of wagon wheel pasta. Delicious. Follow the link to find a list that made me very happy.

Also, please put some Locatelli Pecorino Romano cheese on top. Follow this link to read my review of this cheese on McSweeney's.


Here's something a little more upbeat to follow the scary Natalia Ginzburg quote. Thanks to Vanessa for sending me this.

The White Mustache

The best Natalia Ginzburg essay I've read yet.

"I hadn't known sadness, in childhood; I had only known fear. Now I enumerated all the things in my childhood that had frightened me: a film with a man called Chan who sat holding a knife; he used the knife to cut bread, but then he killed someone... I was also afraid of the fascists; and of a man's hat covered with blood and dirt I once saw next to a mangled bicycle on a curb; and of a weeping woman running away from a man who pursued her."

Sleepy baby monkey

Wallace Berman

Martin Munkacsi

Dan Graham

Sunday, December 16, 2007


"Sensation itself has no 'markers' for size and distance; these have to be learned on the basis of experience. Thus it has been reported that if people who have lived their entire lives in dense rain forest, with a far point no more than a few feet away, are brought into a wide, empty landscape, they may reach out and try to touch the mountaintops with their hands; they have no concept of how far the mountains are."

Oliver Sacks, An Anthropologist on Mars

Sorry about all the YouTube clips

But these are so good. All of them. First Jacques Brel's Le Moribond, with English subtitles. Then Beirut's live cover, which is really fun. Then Nirvana's cover of the adapted American version popularized by Terry Jacks but also recorded by the Beach Boys.

Viva la pappa col pomodoro

This video was added to YouTube on my birthday. Happy birthday to me!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Julie Heffernan

"Self Portrait as Root III"

"Self Portrait as Post Script"

Thomas Allen

The saddest whale in the world

"For the last 12 years, a single solitary whale whose vocalizations match no known living species has been tracked across the Northeast Pacific. Its wanderings match no known migratory patterns of any living whale species. Its vocalizations have also subtly deepened over the years, indicating that the whale is maturing and ageing. And, during the entire 12 year span that it has been tracked, it has been calling out for contact from others of its own kind.

It has received no answer. Nor will it ever."

The Loneliest Mystery of the Deep

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Zen Soy Pudding

Particularly in chocolate/vanilla swirl. Complete with a panda bear!

Rachel Whiteread

House: a concrete cast of the inside of a house similar to the home where she lived as a child.

From the website linked above: "But what of the space itself, where events happen, where seeming emptiness defines the surrounding physical elements? Is it possible to have a visual relationship with something we cannot see?... The audience must re-evaluate its relationship with the space: emptiness is now solid and a solid form is now empty. That which once surrounded, sheltered, and confined is now gone. And what was thought to be empty is now a visible, identifiable, and physical mass. Whiteread reveals, in fact, that nothing has always been something...

"It's as if Whiteread is paying homage to the ghosts of material objects... Whiteread's works often intimate that something has been lost, but sometimes they reveal the opposite -- sometimes the viewer discovers something they always knew existed but could not identify visually. Her sculptures investigate the relationship between matter and its corresponding negative space, between what we have imagined lost and what we have discovered found."

Marcel Dzama

At work.

Walter Martin and Paloma Munoz

Creepy snowglobes.
George Saunders in the NYT on Daniil Kharms

"Kharms’s stories are truly odd, as in: at first you think they’re defective. They seem to cower at the suggestion of rising action, to blush at the heightened causality that makes a story a story. They sometimes end, you feel, before they’ve even begun. Here, in Yankelevich’s translation, is the entire text of 'The Meeting':

'Now, one day a man went to work and on the way he met another man, who, having bought a loaf of Polish bread, was heading back home where he came from.

'And that’s it, more or less.'

Bring that into workshop! You’ll get slaughtered. Crickets will sound in the seminar room. Someone will say, 'I guess I’d like to know more about the Polish bread.' "

A Hunger for Books

Doris Lessing won this year's Nobel Prize in literature. She grew up in Zimbabwe (when it was Rhodesia) and in her acceptance speech discussed people in Zimbabwe today literally begging for books and education. I can't pick a compelling paragraph to excerpt and entice you into reading, because they are all so incredibly good.

The Guardian reproduces the entire speech here.

Giovanni Anselmo

Alexey Titarenko

This is what Italy looks like

In Cinque Terre.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Louis Wain's cats

His story is really sad, and his drawings are haunting. The website linked above quotes a book by Rodney Dale: "He was obsessed with drawing cats, and when the demand for them eventually diminished, he was not able to come to terms with the situation... His mind failed and he was admitted in poverty to a mental hospital. After a time, he was "discovered" there, and a number of influential people set up a fund to enable him to spend the rest of his days in comfort."

Factless autobiography

"Whatever I feel, in the true substance with which I feel it, is incommunicable; and the more profoundly I feel it, the more incommunicable it is, so in order to transmit to someone else what I feel, I must translate my feelings into his language... What I must finally do is convert my feelings into a typical human feeling, even if it means perverting the true nature of what I felt."

Fernando Pessoa

Speaking of Buster Keaton...

McSweeney's said it well: "This guy makes Charlie Chaplin look like Jeff Foxworthy."

But Natalia Ginzburg's essay "Film" said it best: "Buster Keaton, as far as I know, left no memoirs. The silence within him and the silence surrounding him must have been immense. Old age vented its fury on him, laying waste his body and his parched, bare, defenseless face. And yet he remained himself, sealed in his silence, loyal to the infinite despair that could only be speechless, human speech being so pathetically inadequate, forever loyal to the infinite freedom of never uttering a single word."

(The picture links to her essay, but only read it if you have already watched the short film in the post below.)


By Samuel Beckett
Starring Buster Keaton
On YouTube in three parts (above)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A few gems from Haruki Murakami

“…by listening to the D major, I can feel the limits of what humans are capable of - that a certain type of perfection can only be realised through a limitless accumulation of the imperfect.”

“Beyond the edge of the world there’s a space where emptiness and substance neatly overlap, where past and future form a continuous, endless loop. And, hovering about, there are signs no one has ever read, chords no one has ever heard.”

“Time weighs down on you like an old, ambiguous dream. You keep on moving, trying to slip through it. But even if you go to the ends of the earth, you won’t be able to escape it. Still, you have to go there - to the edge of the world. There’s something you can’t do unless you go there.”

All from Kafka on the Shore

Friday, December 7, 2007

Why Don't We Love Science Fiction?

Why Don't We Love Science Fiction?

" 'The truth is,' Aldiss has written, 'that we are at last living in an SF scenario.' A collapsing environment, a hyperconnected world, suicide bombers, perpetual surveillance, the discovery of other solar systems, novel pathogens, tourists in space, children drugged with behaviour controllers – it’s all coming true at last. Aldiss thinks this makes SF redundant. I disagree. In such a climate, it is the conventionally literary that is threatened, and SF comes into its own as the most hardcore realism."

The worst book I've ever seen


Slightly how I feel right now.

Sea Serpent

Hannah Hoch

On life

"I happened to see a cart pass by on the street carrying a mirror, a huge mirror with a gilt frame. It was reflecting the greenish evening sky, and I stopped to watch it go by, feeling an immense happiness, the sense that something important was taking place. I had been feeling very happy even before seeing the mirror, and suddenly I felt as though the very image of my happiness was passing by, the resplendent green mirror in its gilt frame...

"I was always arrested by dismal, seedy people and things; the reality I sought was contemptible, without any splendor. There was a touch of malice in my taste of digging up minute details, an avid petty interest in tiny things, tiny as fleas. I was a dirtdigger, perversely bent on hunting for fleas. The mirror on the cart seemed to offer new possibilities, maybe the capacity to focus on a more glorious and radiant reality, a brighter reality that didn't call for minute descriptions and clever conceits but could be realized in one joyous, resplendent image."

Natalia Ginzburg

On growing up

"Now, in this new home we've made for ourselves, we no longer want to be poor, we're even a little frightened of being poor. We feel a curious fondness for the things around us, for a table or a rug, we who would always spill ink on our parents' rugs; this new fondness of ours for a rug is somewhat troubling, we're somewhat ashamed of it. We still walk through the streets at the edge of the city now and then, but back home we carefully wipe our muddy shoes on the doormat. We take a new pleasure in sitting at home under the lamp, the shutters sealed against the dark city."

Natalia Ginzburg

On writing

"In the back of my mind I always know very well what I am, namely a small, small writer. I swear I know. But it doesn't much matter... I prefer to think no one has ever been quite like me, however small, however flea-like or mosquito-like a writer I may be. What matters is having the conviction that it truly is a craft, a profession, something to follow for the rest of one's life...

"The daily ups and downs of our life, the daily ups and downs we witness in others' lives, all that we read and see and think and discuss feeds its hunger, and it grows within us. It is a craft that thrives on terrible things too; it feeds on the best and the worst in our life, our evil feelings and our good feelings course through its blood. It feeds on us, and it thrives."

Natalia Ginzburg

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Those Crazy Italians

Download the image of a protective saint straight to your cell phone!

Stephanie and Meghan Endorse Obama for 08

I think it's safe to say this blog endorses Barack Obama for the 2008 presidential elections.

Today in the New York Times Frank Rich explains what makes Stephanie and I swoon.

So Much Nothing in the Universe

The Ice-Cream Scoop Taken Out of the Universe
Discover Magazine, Nov. 21, 2007

Astronomers at the University of Minnesota have identified the largest known void in the universe, a cosmological no-man’s-land where stars, planets, and even dark matter are mysteriously absent. “It’s like an ice-cream scoop taken out of the universe,” says Shea Brown, one of the astronomers. “There’s nothing there.”

Monday, December 3, 2007

On life

"But if your health is good, and you have a habit of looking at each day as a whole day - unless you drop dead at noon or something - then every day you live something interesting. It's interesting because you either meet a new tree or if you're in the city, you meet a new person. Or something happens. The sun shifts on the mountain - very beautiful things happen."

Grace Paley

Lesson in life and death

Pupils build dying teacher's coffin

A Dutch primary school teacher dying of cancer is overseeing one last class project: her pupils are making her coffin. Eri van den Biggelaar, 40, has just a few weeks to live after being diagnosed last year with an aggressive form of cervical cancer.

She asked the woodwork teacher, a friend, to build a coffin for her. "Why don't you let the children make it?" replied Erik van Dijk.

Now pupils of the school in Someren, who normally plane wood for baskets and placemats, have been helping with the finishing touches. They have already sawed more than 100 narrow boards and glued them together. Only the lid needs to be completed.

"Life and death belong together," she said. "The children realised that when I explained it to them. I didn't want to be morbid about it, I wanted them to help me. I told them: 'Where I will go is much nicer than this world.' "


How to make your own.

I'm Not There

"To slog through the present requires no particular wit, vision or art. But a certain kind of artist will comb through the old stuff that's lying around - the tall tales and questionable memories, the yellowing photographs and scratched records - looking for glimpses of a possible future." NY Times


The Turkish ET.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut

The 1977 Paris Review Interview with Kurt Vonnegut


Sure. We loved Laurel and Hardy. You know what one of the funniest things is that can happen in a film?




To have somebody walk through what looks like a shallow little puddle, but which is actually six feet deep. I remember a movie where Cary Grant was loping across lawns at night. He came to a low hedge, which he cleared ever so gracefully, only there was a twenty-foot drop on the other side. But the thing my sister and I loved best was when somebody in a movie would tell everybody off, and then make a grand exit into the coat closet. He had to come out again, of course, all tangled in coat hangers and scarves.