Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Sunday, December 21, 2003

I am off tomorrow to see my parents in san diego. More than one friend has asked me to bring them back some tamales. It is a tradition at least among members of my family to make batches of tamales for the christmas holiday. These are usually consumed with a side of atole or, if you like, cinnamon tea.

All of my aunts make tamales but it is those made by my mom that taste best to me. Others are too wet or too dry or too rubbery or filled with too many vegetables, etc. Any number of reasons that are probably more about the subtleties of taste and the draw of the familiar.

This last week or so for me has been a week of many mood swings. Good news follows bad news follows good news like some train plagued with erratic combustion. I have had some wonderful surprises and some terrible revelations. The net effect though, if life and emotions could really be combined like factors in an equation, is positive. I am looking forward to this upcoming year. Great things are to come.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

If you are looking for film recommendations, try reading through this thread.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

I've been exploring what I can only call for lack of a better term, cartographies of the imagination. It was inspired actually by this beautiful diagram (the parageography of Ibarborou's Diaria de una Islena) I found on another weblog (you might have to scroll down.)

From Chatwin to Schama, I usually cant keep my hands off anything map-related and if I had any sort of collector-bug (which I lack) I'd have a whole room devoted to maps. The draw is so strong that I can probably trace my urge to sail from that first instance when someone unrolled a nautical map on a table and outlined some possible courses. The actual sailing then, the tacks and jibes, was a physical realization, an incarnation of that token on a map.

Here are some shiny things I found:

-Harmon's Personal Geographies and other Maps of the Imagination
-The World of Experience: Life as a map
-Nancy Graves: lithographs based on maps of the moon (see also The Selenographica)
-The peralta stone maps
-Micronesian stick charts
-Workers at the japanese GSI create animal maps
-Six artists who use maps
All these holiday parties this past week have forced me to get out of my indoor hibernation. The best gathering I have been to was a party at the loft of my old friend El Naughty. It was just what you always hope for in a party (but rarely happens) - everyone was interesting, stimulating, friendly, intelligent. Senor Naughty likes to collect people that he finds beautiful or fascinating and this was definitely quite a crowd.

Heres something interesting. I was at an event yesterday with A. We were greeted at the door by a woman who did not know us but whose task it was to give us a nametag and give us a name. She had only two types of tags. One said "I am the Master of _____" and the other said "I am the Muse of _____"

Anyways, she looked us up and down and wrote up A.'s tag which said "I am the Muse of Open Expression" and then wrote one for me which said "I am the Master of Passionate Action"

What I liked about this is that at the party everyone felt the need to comment on why you had been branded as you were. It was a reliable conversation-opener.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

"Oleg, know what", began Andrei in a roundabout way; "I had this idea of filming a man asleep in one continuous sequence, without any editing - from the moment he falls asleep at night to the moment he wakes up in the morning. Imagine what a subtle and grandiose range of human emotions would be reflected on his face in that time! Especially if he dreams...".

"I´ll have dreams in the film?", I cautiously inquired.

- Yankovski on Tarkovski and the Inextinguishable Candle

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Yesterday at the Roxie theater I had a chance to see Thicker than Water. This is a mesmerizing film - the surfing is acrobatic but inspired, still maintaining that elegance and beauty in which surfer and wave are like two dancers.

I try to explain what this is like, to summon up words which can describe that sense of exaltation and yet also a sense of connection with the forces of nature, a personification of force and wind and water that does justice to this all. But films like this do so much better. The more intelligent surfers I know are natural philosophers, high priests of an unrecognized religion.

I should also mention that Rob Machado (like Gerlach who I mentioned before) is also from my same small beachside hometown of 5,000 people. He still lives there and has a small band that plays at the local elementary school festival every year (the same elementary school linked below in the coastline project) and used to play in a band with Kelly Slater.

I realized for some reason that it must snow on beaches but what would that look like? For me its a strange conjunction.

Friday, December 05, 2003

I was reading an article by Umberto Eco, a lecture he gave at the Alexandrian Library (The Alexandrian Library is itself an anachronism, a 21st century library emerging from the mediterranean landscape not as a new venture into the electronic age but more as a confused homage to its ancient predecessor.) In his lecture you can hear the old pleas for the book form (which I am sympathetic to), a pile of fading paper in a world where information is now transferred electronically, rendered as pixels rather than bursts of ink.

So, one of the sidebar images was from one of my favorite books, Max Ernst's Une Semaine de Bonte. I had forgotten I owned this book and so I went looking for it among some boxes of books that I had stored away.

This is a wordless novel, a surreal collage, in which bird-headed women vie with lion-headed men. In which bats and dogs and enormous serpents appear in bedrooms, water and sand and elements flow through Victorian streets and ballrooms. The novel is intractable, it makes no sense. But Ernst maintains a light, distant sense of continuity from frame to frame so that you cannot help but feel that there must be some logic.

When you read this book, you end up inventing your own story to make sense of it all, to try to explain it away. A parable maybe?

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

A friend asked me what I thought of Tapscott's translation of Neruda.

Love, how often I loved you without seeing-
without remembering you-
not recognizing your glance, not knowing you, a gentian
in the wrong place, scorching in the hot noon,
but I loved only the smell of the wheat.

Or maybe I saw you, imagined you lifting a wineglass
in Angol, by the light of the summer's moon
or were you the the waist of that guitar I strummed
in the shadows, the one that rang like an impetuos sea?

I loved you without knowing I did; I searched to remember you.
I broke into houses to steal your likeness
though I already knew what you were like. And, suddenly,

when you were there with me I touched you, and my life
stopped: you stood before me, you took dominion like a queen:
like a wildfire in the forest, and the flame is your dominion.

This is from Neruda's 100 Love Sonnets translated by Stephen Tapscott of course.

I have to admit that any sort of analysis, either of poetry or prose, makes me squirm. I'd rather take things as they are and not dissect them. But I am fascinated by the art of translation.

I think a translation is best viewed as an original work of its own, an inspired variation of the source. A good translation is one that stands well on its own. The "best" translation may not even be the most faithful. A faithful attempt might be too literal, too grounded in the original phrasing, too clunky.

That said, there is not much to discuss when Neruda writes, as he does in another poem, "Beso a beso recorro tu pequeno infinito,/tus margenes, tus rios, tus pueblos diminutos" and it is translated as "Kiss by kiss I travel your little infinity,/your borders, your rivers, your tiny villages." That is almost word for word, rendered strong and succinctly.

In the poem up top though it might be surprising to learn that the phrase "I broke into houses to steal your likeness" can be translated literally (by me) from the Spanish as "In the empty houses I entered with a lantern to steal your portrait"

Here, Tapscott has made some alterations. Neruda didnt explicitly say he was breaking in to the houses but it is implied. The original "retrato" means "portrait" to me but "likeness" may in fact fit in better with the overall theme. Sacrifices have also been made to render a translation which sounds smooth in the rhythms of english.

Hundreds of Bongard problems are online and I had some fun trying to solve as many as I could. Most are by Bongard, some are additions by Hofstadter. There are apparently some meta-bongard problems too though I havent tried those. Someone pointed me to SET earlier, but it doesnt appeal to me for some reason. Maybe the rules are too prescribed.
You might be familiar with the guy who photographed the entire california coastline. Well, this photo is the area where I grew up. My parents house is just inland from here but we used to walk down to that beach. The construction on the left is a remodeling of Cardiff Elementary School where I spent a couple years.

With this, I can also show you where I spent thanksgiving. It was at one of these beachhouses pictured here.

I helped some of the little kids hunt for fish and crabs in the lagoon you see in the middle. LB said that being near water was somehow mesmerizing, like being slightly hypnotized, and I agreed with her.

Clothed in heavy jackets, groups of us also walked up and down along that beach, chatting, gossiping, throwing stones, picking up seashells.
Blame it on thanksgiving and on being caught by a mysterious flu-like thing (no, I havent been in Asia) which is disrupting my sleep and leaving me feeling tired and unable to concentrate on anything more weighty than cooking pasta or flipping through comic books.

The day before Thanksgiving, I helped to serve food at Glide church. I was part of an assembly line and my big duty was to put cups on the trays that went by me. It was easy at first but I was deceived. As literally hundreds of people filed through for their meal the pace sped up so much it was like that episode of 'I Love Lucy' and the bon-bons where it seemed hopeless and I wondered how many trays I had messed up. It slowed down later but by the end of the day I had some mild form of repetitive cup-placing disorder.

I'm looking forward to doing it again.

Monday, November 24, 2003

I spent this past Saturday night drinking bourbon and watching Fellini movies. Listen if you can to the audio commentary on the 8 1/2 DVD! (usually these are to be avoided) You will learn that the psychic clown in real life went on to become the leader of a Sufi cult. That Saraghina (who can forget La Saraghina, the enormous prostitute who lived on the beach?) was an American opera singer. Or hear one of the narrators lament at how Fellini used people up, how he brought out the best in them and then discarded them. You will also hear that same narrator say how he himself was one of those people.
You'll think I'm lying to you if I say that dark, articulate writing can be erotic even when the subject is hard and intellectual. Even when it is comically academic. This is the case with one of my favorite book of essays: Wole Soyinka's Myth, Literature and the African World. This is what I mean:

You must picture a steam-engine which shunts itself between rather closely-spaced suburban stations. At the first station it picks up a ballast of allegory, puffs into the next emitting a smokescreen on the eternal landscape of nature truths. At the next it loads up with a different species of logs which we shall call naturalist timber, puffs into a half-way stop where it fills up with the synthetic fuel of surrealism, from which point yet another holistic world-view is glimpsed and asserted through psychedelic smoke. A new consignment of absurdist coke lures it into the next station from which it departs giving off no smoke at all, and no fire, until it derails briefly along constructivist tracks and is towed back to the starting-point by a neoclassic engine.

This, for us, is the Occidental creative rhythm, a series of intellectual spasms which, especially today, appears susceptible to commercial manipulation. And the difference which we are seeking to define between European and African drama as one of man's formal representations of experience is not simply a difference of style or form, nor is it confined to drama alone. It is representative of the essential differences between two worldviews..
The McGurk effect is something I saw a long time ago but just rediscovered. Essentially, what we hear (or think we are hearing) is closely tied with what we see.

The author posits that a fever should not be too unlike a 3-d sphere,
a ball, passing through a sheet of paper. First, we would have yearned
to create him. But, I am a heppy, heppy ket! Bletch: A SARS Reality
Check, just in case anyone's been excessively worried.�8´ stavros:270
dead, huh? Meanwhile, thousands of people a day are dying of Malaria
Here is the grave, not a tile. That's a stupid thing to say. The author
assumes in the game-board There is a language that I believe was more
highly developed in the game because it the hat Napoleon wore. To hold
it is not a tile. That's a stupid thing to say. The author posits that
a tile is an interesting idea nonetheless. I was younger with more
bravado (or cowardice or blindness) than sense, I always told myself
I'd be dead by 35, that the rules and why. I know this can get very
meta, but I think he's got a chance. The Nobel committee likes to
distribute the prize geographically. Saramago got the prize in 1998.
Miguel will have to go get his from Jose. Its why someone like Fuentes
would have yearned to create...
yes yes skallas but can you refute quantum immortality?


Thursday, November 20, 2003

Mitsu is having a salon in his loft. It looks really interesting with films and art and performances. I would go but I won't be in New York then.

Edward Burtynsky: Shipbreaking 9a

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

writing in spanish for me is getting into my mother. obscurity happens too much there. as i am sure happens too for natural born english users. i call ‘mother’ the state in which thought and language are one. this is not what happens to me when i write in english. when i write in english mother disappears. first, i think, then i stop. language in this case is not what comes simultaneously with thought. i need fabrication.

- from mexperimental

Spanish is my native language, the language in which I first babbled. I learned English though by the age of five, so I have no discernible accent.

Still, whereas Spanish is like an intimate whisper, English feels more like an act of translation, like contrived expression, more mechanical, like transforming thoughts into a mathematical formula.

If others envy my ability to speak easily in two tongues, I envy their ability to have the intimate language of their childhood be also the language of the everyday. Or am I wrong?

Monday, November 17, 2003

Here in San Francisco, we are about to have a run-off election to choose our next mayor. The two contenders are Gavin Newsom and Matt Gonzalez.

We already had an election but among the field of candidates, nobody got more than 50% of the vote which is what would have been required to avoid a run-off. Still, Newsom actually pulled off about 40% which makes him the man to beat. In comparison, Gonzalez brought in about 20%.

Run-off elections are a good thing in that they more closely represent the choice of the voter than, say, plurality elections where the candidate with the most votes wins. The reason for this was starkly clear in the last presidential election where third-party candidates (e.g. Ralph Nader) can pull away votes from a favored candidate and tip the election towards a candidate that the majority of the population did not approve of.

No voting system is perfect but some are better than others. As early as the 18th century, the Marquis de Condorcet was one of the first to point out that in a simple plurality voting system, you can get counter-intuitive results. In a simple example, it is not hard to show that voter preferences can be set up among three candidates (A,B and C) such that if A was pitted against B, A would win; if B was pitted against C, B would win. But, counterintuitively, if A went up against C, C would win.

The Nobel Prize winning economist Kenneth Arrow expanded on this to show that it was in fact impossible to construct a perfect voting system. That is, given a basic set of requirements about how results should follow from voter choice, there is no system that guarantees these results!

None of this means, however, that some systems are not better than others. But plurality is one of the weakest. Much better are ranking systems. The best article I found on the web that gives a good laymans overview is this article from Science News. An excerpt from near the end of the article lays out the problem succinctly:

Consider 15 people deciding what beverage to serve at a party. Six prefer milk first, wine second, and beer third; five prefer beer first, wine second, and milk third; and four prefer wine first, beer second, and milk third.
In a plurality vote, milk is the clear winner. But if the group decides instead to hold a runoff election between the two top contenders, milk and beer, then beer wins, since nine people prefer it over milk. And if the group awards two points to a drink each time a voter ranks it first and one point each time a voter ranks it second, suddenly wine is the winner. Although this is a concocted example, it's not an anomaly

Though why anyone would choose milk for a party is beyond me.
All this stuff that gets thrown at us by our high school english teachers. Only later do they un-repel us enough for us to realize that some of them (though not all) are actually pretty good. But what about those that we didnt even get to hear about in the first place? And so I present just two for now:

Two Great Books you probably have not heard of:

Flann O'Brien's At Swim Two Birds
This is the book that Dylan Thomas was referring to when he said "This is just the book to give your sister if she's a loud, dirty, boozy girl!"
Although overshadowed by Joyce's Finnegans wake which came out at the same time, this book is much more readable (I know, not saying much) and much funnier. His clever monologues about booze make it clear that O'Brien can get as intoxicated by words as by drink.

Di Lampedusa's The Leopard
One of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. This is the kind of book you open just to read random passages. Di Lampedusa was a Sicilian Prince who loved literature. He wrote this book, his only work, near the end of his life and, tragically, only lived long enough to hear from one publisher that it was un-publishable. In Italy this novel often appears in polls of the greatest Italian novel ever written.

Friday, November 14, 2003

The highlight of the Low Gallery party this past week was the work of Zenaida Sengo. I hope they find a new place.
Have you felt the potential of a moment and felt as if it was pulling you forward? As if it will unravel into something surprising and explosive. Perhaps like that moment at the end of the slide when you tumble head-first into the water.

I find myself relying more on experience these days, on intuition and instinct. When I was younger, I dissected the world with reason and tried to impose it where I could not find it, like a reassuring veil.

I lost my faith in words when they failed to express how enormous were my thoughts and how I felt them all at once, a soup of emotions, not a sequence of things or impressions which could be laid out for examination, like organs on an operating table.

How can you express that flurry of ideas which hits you in those hazy moments of semi-sleep when it feels as if the world can be re-configured. That beauty of a sudden revelation, as startling as the first deep intake of breath on a winter day. Or even that splitting you feel inside when you have been betrayed by someone you love, when your mind feels as confused and helpless as two birds flying around in a sack.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Yesterday afternoon as I was walking home along 24th st. in the Mission, a man approached me and then started walking beside me. He wasnt a tall man but he looked kind of rough and was wearing a large 49'ers jacket. This is the conversation we had, translated from spanish:

Him: Hi there
Me: Hi, whats up?
Him: So, if you have 7 and you had 4 away then you get 3 right?
Him: Listen, my daughter was only 3 when they put me away and I was away for 4 years. So how old is she?
Me: She would be 7
Him: Bah! thats what everyone says but I think she might be 6 1/2. Is that right?
Me: That could be right. It sounds like she's around 7.
Him: Look, its just that I needed someone to talk with, you know? I just got out. They just dropped me off in South San Francisco and I just made it up here. This is such a grand moment for me. Such a special moment. I am about to see my daughter that I havent seen for four years.
Me: four years...
Him: I was so young and stupid back then. Made so many mistakes. But now I'm going to go see my daughter and this fills me up with so much emotion, you know?
Him: Well, here's South Van Ness..I gotta go this way. It was good meeting you.
Me: It was good meeting you. Good luck.

As he was walking away, I noticed he had been carrying a plastic bag. Inside was something with the loud primary colors of a childrens toy.

Friday, November 07, 2003

I have jumped from an airplane and it is like this. You throw yourself into a wide open space. Your arms flail as do your legs because they need to feel that there is an anchor, a reference point but there is nothing there. It is a sense of freedom which makes you want to scream with joy. It is a sense of terror which makes it hard to breath because your heart feels like it will beat out of your chest. You are lost and what you knew is gone. You do not know what will come next. But this entire feeling you have, this closeness with death, this discarding of everything you knew also makes you feel terribly, heart-breakingly alive.

We have all had these moments when we fall suddenly or trip or are hit with something unexpected. The moment, brief as it is sometimes lasting only seconds, seems to stretch itself out as our sense of it, our attention focuses on this event as it rarely focuses on anything. So small is the time, so precise is this attention, that you can count the moments from when a command issues forth in your brain and it finally reaches your hands (emanating like a slow wave upon an ocean) that stretch out to break your fall or fend off the danger or remove themselves from resting on the burning stove. This is also to be attentive, to be in the moment, to be alive.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Things to not do:

• Listen to the Flaming Lips album online
• Read why 5 is the perfect number

• Flip through your copy of an old book on Medical Anomalies

• Plan to see a movie titled Bedtime Fairy Tale for Crocodile
• Be out drinking and see the Thursday morning sun

Monday, November 03, 2003

I didnt know that san francisco has one of the largest Day of the Dead celebrations in the US. About 10,000 people showed up tonight (sunday) for a march to Garfield park which had been transformed into a site for altars and candles and offerings.

It has been adopted here by artists of course and so in some ways the event had more of the feel of a Burning Man or some other spontaneous excuse for creative expression. A band of skeletal musicians played and danced on a street corner. The street was full of people with whitened faces and blackened teeth. Men are doing drag versions of Posada's Catrina. I saw more than a few gothic dead, people that looked as if they had emerged from an Edward Gorey fantasy.

My first instinct about this is to question how authentic such a thing can be. I had noticed, for example, one of the altar artists explaining the significance of mirrors in the altar. The truth is there is no significance except to the artist herself. But this was not adequately explained to the curious onlookers who, to my mind, had been subtley deceived into thinking mirrors played some role in the mexican tradition. (Insert all sorts of questions here about performance and authenticity)

The area in Mexico where I grew up is not too far from the island of Janitzio, an epicenter for Day of the Dead in Mexico. I went to a few celebrations as a child but my memory is fuzzy and so I talked to my mother about this. Her memories are of large offerings in the graveyard, a festival atmosphere in which mariachi bands sometimes played among the tombstones. Children would laugh and play and make jokes about death - she remembers the equivalent of 'kick me' signs you would slap on the backs of others, except that instead the signs said 'Bury me, Im dead' or 'I have such bad breath, I must be dead." The more creative ones would also rhyme.

These things seem strange to us here where a graveyard is a solemn place. But a Day of the Dead is a party with the Dead. It fits in suprisingly well with what Octavio Paz described in his book, The Labyrinth of Solitude, as that Mexican sense of fatalism and comradery with death:

The Mexican . . . is familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it; it is one of his favorite toys and his most steadfast love. True, there is perhaps as much fear in his attitude as in that of others, but at least death is not hidden away (. . .) Death [in the poetry of Gorostiza and Villaurrutia can be seen] as nostalgia, rather than as the fruition or end of life, [it] is death as origin. The ancient, original source is the grave, not a womb.

My mother is relying on her memory because the truth is that up until recently Day of the Dead has been a dying tradition in Mexico. It is still practiced but it is not catholic-approved and so it is the rite of a dying generation. The rites in Janitzio are authentic but so many Westerners are enchanted by these rituals that the small little island is unfortunately over-run by tourists and thus by the threat of being suffocated into extinction.

But it also may be the beauty of these rituals which may rescue it yet. My mother notes that there is a returning fascination in Mexico and that which was almost forgotten is now being re-learned. The aesthetic enchantment of the Day of the Dead, its dancing skeletons, its beautiful candlelit processions, its attempt to unite two worlds is appealing also to non-mexicans and so my mother tells me, I should not be so judgemental. She doesnt see it as a corruption but looks forward to seeing San Francisco's rendition of this old pagan tradition.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Odilon Redon's Grinning Spider

(Lifted from a typically gorgeous post by misteraitch)

I flew back to san francisco yesterday. Despite a busy social calendar or rather because of it, I didnt get a chance to see about 6-7 people I was looking forward to seeing (one was a case of crossed signals.) I think I just need to get back there more often.

I wasnt going to post anymore photos but I realized I should post at least one of my personal photographer. That is me and him in the picture above. On my last day he actually gave me a CD of the 100's of photos he took while I was there. Too much to write about. Still, a few moments stand out:

• The night when LL accidentally smashed the mirror in the womens bathroom and her wrist was bleeding. The woman who descended like an angel to help her is the same woman who was later dancing wildly on the stage. The whole thing needed a Nino Rota soundtrack.
• Meeting Mitsu and Sue for lunch where we talked about Reality, Uncertainty, Mexican food and GNE. Its true that I'd never been to the South Bronx before.
• I had no idea three people could fill up on Dim Sum for $20.
• When I was again at the Pink Pony for coffee and the man in a military uniform walked in. He wasnt tall but still he cast a shadow over the room. The waitress explained that he showed up frequently and kept asking for the same person (who was never there.) I saw New York again as I always have: a thick setting for all these fantastic, intersecting stories.
• Obstinately, I walked from Union Square to the Lower East side in torrential rain. Water was sloshing out of my shoes.
• Learning again about small-worlds as I discovered that I knew one guy (Matt) through three distinct friends. I had also planned to get together with Matt but he was in Mexico.

Friday, October 24, 2003

I landed in new york city two days ago, right before my birthday this year. I am doing something atypical here. I am posting images (courtesy of paul) and trying to capture a few moments from the day.

Part I: Morning

By morning, I mean shortly after midnight. Me and PK and others went to the opening night of this new club called Nocturne. It seems every night is an opening night for some club in Manhattan. And as you might expect there is a group of regulars who go from club to club - they know the people in that world, the owners and bouncers and waitresses - and can easily slide their way past a line of frustrated people out in front. I am not one of those people but luckily many of my friends are. So we danced and drank for hours and different crowds arrived, stayed with us a while then moved on.

Note1: A girl who said she would say 'happy birthday!' to me every five minutes for the rest of the night. She didnt last for more than hour which I am thankful for.

Note2: One of the owners introducing us to his girlfriend and then leaning over and telling me in an excited boyish way, "Isnt she hot!? She's a model."

Part II: Late morning- early afternoon

After nocturne we headed out for kind of a post-party party at a smaller club called Bungalow8 which had no line out front but you cant get in unless you have a connection. After being out past 5am we then just headed to Paul's place. I slept until the middle of the afternoon. I had afternoon pancakes at the Pink Pony.

Note1: Herzlichen Glückwunsch!

Part III: Evening

PK suggested we go to this artists studio as part of Moma-Ja. So we went to the working studio of Sarah Morris and met up with a few other people here. I had a few small-world encounters that day and one was that one of the other Moma-Ja people turned out to be someone I had met in San Francisco (a friend of another friend.)

After that is when the evening started to get interesting. New York is so dense with activity that you can literally stumble from one affair into another. All you need is to be social and creative and events will spontaneously link themselves together.

Six of us had seen bright lights and heard noise from another party in the building (this was in West Chelsea) and so we all went to investigate. The party was an industry party for John Frieda. There was a guest list but the bravest (and also most well-dressed) one of us walked right up, leaned over on the list and said 'Thats me right there!" He then generously explained that the rest of us were with him and so in that way we all strolled right in to an open bar of Cosmopolitans. We left as soon as the party started getting down to business (pictured above.)

At this point, a woman who had joined us explained that she had several invitations to private gallery parties that night and would we like to join her? (social life is also a tit-for-tat thing)

The first gallery was a slightly surreal exhibition of photos of children in underwear in Times Square. The gallery owner patiently explained how these images were deeply grounded in myth - Times square represented of course media and advertising who, like a bogeyman, is poised to kidnap these innocent things and inculcate them with brands and culture. And so on. We heard that the next exhibition had a rooftop party so we dashed over there...

The rooftop party was a disappointment - it was an ambient sound installation (the erie noise reminded me kind of those strange loops near the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey) and the rooftop was cold and windy so everybody huddled inside.

Inside they had some interesting visual installations (above left) and walking around, PK recognized and chatted with this man with a leather jacket. When I walked over he introduced me to Andres Serrano (top right)

At this point we were starving. A couple people dropped off and calls from other friends meant that another group was joining us at corner bistro. The place was full and the baseball game was on. The photo on the left is of people up against the window next to us, peering at the television screens.

Note1: One waiter there is now "the fry nazi" for arguing with us so vehemently and expertly, he pointed out contradictions in our own version of events in placing our order. We guessed that he was a frustrated ex-lawyer.

We moved on to another art exhibit and party of a friend's brother. His work seemed to consist of kitchen implements (forks and spoons really) shaped and arranged to look like things that resembled animal spines.

The group stayed there, others scattered to other places, I could barely stay awake and went home.

Note1: Feliz cumpleanos!

Part IV: denouement

Friday was mostly sleep, playing piano on Paul's conservatory grand or walking around the city.
The celebration continued over into friday and shows no signs of stopping. This is the city I remember. When I lived here in the mid-90's this was a typical night. The city will exhaust you, maybe consume you if you let it.

And yes, if you dont already know me, that is me in three of those pictures, including my hand in the upper left.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Playing pool against Andy last night, we both again got to witness something at once supernatural and hilarious. Ever since we were both teenagers, he has always beaten me. This outcome is inevitable, unquestionable, as predictable as any other constant rhythm in our lives.

At the end of one game last night, having cleared my own balls, my only shot left was a clear shot at the 8-ball into a corner pocket. I aimed, fired and the cue ball literally hopped along the table, actually jumped over the 8-ball leaving it unperturbed and sunk into the corner pocket by itself. I lost, of course, and somehow neither of us was too surprised.

He knows that if I am ever beating him, if I am too far ahead, all he has to say is something encouraging, pointing out clearly how well I am doing. This will almost guarantee that I will miss my next shot. I can play well if I am acting on instinct (he and I are both great players, confidently taking on others in contests in bars) but as soon as one of us invokes that higher consciousness, that sense of self-reflection which over-analyzes, over-thinks, ties up instincts into knots, he and i both know that it is over for me.

So it is too with my younger brother Antonio except that the roles are reversed and instead of billiards, the contest between us is one of brute strength and will. He is only two years younger than me which was an enormous gap when young but negligible now at our ages.

My brother and i like to wrestle with each other even today. There is no doubt that he could beat me if he only would allow himself. He is a tattooed, ex-gangster who has been in and out of jail, who has had to defend himself against real and brutal attacks. Me, I'm a softened intellectual type. The mismatch seems laughable and yet when we wrestle, even as he seems to be gaining control, he is held back by a realization (I can sometimes see it in his startled eyes) that this is his older brother he is battling, who always bested him as a child and who even now will inevitably, assuredly win. And so I do.
I had to lift this directly from Not only is it a reference to a beautiful anecdote but also echoes subtly some of the themes i've tried to express here: memories, dreams, our confounding sense of identity.

Interviewer (Francine Prose): What was the first thing you wrote, the first thing you thought was really something?

Lydia Davis: I can remember a day when the teacher read aloud my story and also a story by a classmate. I loved her story. I wasn't so fond of mine. So I can say her story was a big influence on me, the first thing that I really remember liking. You know the book Iron and Silk where the English teacher asks a class of Chinese students to describe their most memorable experience? One of the students hesitates and hesitates and finally says that his most memorable experience was when his wife went to Beijing and ate duck there. He didn’t go. She went, but that was his most memorable experience.

-From an Interview with Lydia Davis.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

I was playing around a bit with epidemic models. Its not just a morbid fascination with zombies (a great word to repeat to yourself and have it lose its meaning) or the spread of disease. Models as to how diseases spread are now being re-purposed to model more abstract infections such as the spread of ideas.

The simplest model is the SEIR model which is a simplistic model of how a flu-like disease can spread among a sea of random interactions. I was playing with the Java model linked at the bottom of that page. You can see for yourself that the behavior never attains any sense of real complexity (scroll down to see the atoms of infection) I did come up with these two parameter sets:

Zombieville: Everybody goes through a phase of infection. The ratios all remain fairly constant as if a truce has been reached with the disease. (10,10,80,200,200,1000000,2,2000,0)

Exploding Zombies: The disease is infectious only at the end of the lifecycle. (20,20,1000,80,1000000,1000000,4,800,100)

More sophisticated models take into account both the complexities of how diseases really spread (types of interaction) and the way in which opportunities for spread are created.

(A fun applet which has made the rounds recently is this Zombie Infection Simulation)
I was looking around on the web for more information about a book I had as a kid. It was called 5000 BC and other philosophical fantasies by Raymond Smullyan. Sadly, it looks like the book is either out of print or hard to get. Its a book just filled with original stories, puzzles, aphorisms and other notes from Smullyan himself, a logician and philosopher with a really playful sense.

The title is a reference to a set of philosophers in his book who live in 5000 BC. By reading about how they debate the features of their world, you yourself realize how absurd some of our own premises might sound (They debate for example the meaning of "Up" and conclude that something must hold the world up, but then something must hold that up etc. - an infinity which they cannot resolve) Excerpt: A Universal Philosophical Refutation

I'm still trying, however, to find this other small book that changed my world around (Do most readers have a book like this?) It was on my grandfathers bookshelf in Mexico. It was a thin book with a short introduction to different deep concepts in science and philosopy. One short section introduced Relativity by talking about the Twin paradox. It even had a drawn picture of two identical looking guys in spacesuits. (I dont remember enough about the book to make a competent search. It would have to fall into my hands.)

Finding that book had the effect of a drug. What's this? I didnt know any of this! Its strange stuff but even stranger because it is real. Ever since finding that book I've held onto that uneasy feeling that there is something deeper and more beautiful, more sublime which others have found but I have'nt yet discovered. Its an optimistic sense.
Last night, the light came in and illuminated the bar and I was watching my bourbon drink scatter it like a prism.

We walked into the opening at Pirate Tattoo. The two people I was with both reached their arms inside my coat to feel the fur lining. I could see that others wondered if this was one of the exhibits.

The large silver cross was mesmerizing, the one that fell out from his leather jacket as he babbled in spanish. His girlfriend ran her fingers through my hair in a sort of maternal way which felt strange in public. She cuts my hair, you know.

The street had so much life. People in a nearby crowd chattered like birds. Restaurants spilled their customers into the streets.

When I asked M. for her advice she said to me:

" We delude ourselves sometimes by choosing to live in small worlds. These obstacles we imagine can be like a mirage, as real as the haze conjured up by this drink. "

"Or, the haze conjured up by your cigarette", I said.

"Oh Shit! Let's go, I need another smoke."

Thursday, October 16, 2003

I am busy wrapping up a few things here in San Francisco before I head to NYC for a week next week, staying with Paul in The Lower East side. My calendar is already filling up with people I want to see.

I'll be there for my birthday, next thursday. It'll be good to spend it with old friends.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Monday, October 13, 2003

"What is it that has called you so suddenly out of nothingness to enjoy for a brief while a spectacle which remains quite indifferent to you?...

It is not possible that this unity of knowledge, feeling, and choice which you call your own should have sprung into being from nothingness at a given moment not so long ago; rather this knowledge, feeling and choice are essentially eternal and unchangeable and numerically one in all men, nay in all sensitive beings.

But not in this sense--that you are a part, a piece, of an eternal, infinite, being as in Spinoza's pantheism. But inconceivable as it may seem to ordinary reason, you--and all other conscious beings as such--are all in all. Hence this life of yours which you are living is not merely a piece of the entire existence, but is in a certain sense the whole; only this whole is not so constituted that it can be surveyed in a single glance. Thus you can throw yourself flat on the ground, stretched out upon Mother Earth, with the certain conviction that you are one with her and she with you.

You are as firmly established, as invulnerable as she, indeed a thousand times firmer and more invulnerable. As surely as she will engulf you tomorrow, so surely will she bring you forth anew to new striving and suffering. And not merely 'some day': now, today, every day she is bringing you forth, not once but thousands upon thousands of times, just as every day she engulfs you a thousand times over. For eternally and always there is only now, one and the same now; the present is the only thing that has no end."

-Erwin Schroedinger, one of the founders of quantum mechanics, from My View of the World

Schrodinger's book What is Life? is a little-known classic. He was a student of Vedanta but of course among most people he is familiar as the man with the notorious cat.

Mathew Borrett
I went movie-hopping at the Metreon last night with a couple other people. We saw Kill Bill (as fun and as forgettable as a comic book) and Intolerable Cruelty (Intolerable Movie).

Listening to the cello music of Zoe Keating puts me in a sort of trance. It reminds me of a mantra. I saw her perform live once at Bruno's with the band LaughingStock.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

If you go to Paris, you shouldnt rely too heavily on Karen Elizabeth Gordon's Paris out of Hand

"..catch the Metro Marquis de Sade for Ars Poetica, La Toucherie, and further wondrous adventures. From the disconcerting Brasserie Loplop, steal your chair for the Pont Neuf cinema, whose movies flow onto the Seine. Your curiosity sated for the day, check into the Hotel des Etrangers where phantoms change the sheets.."

The Paris she writes about is imaginary. But each city has its quirky charms. When my girlfriend (at the time) and I landed in Madrid, we booked ourselves into the Hotel Monaco. We knew it was a converted brothel, but the mirrored ceilings still took us by surprise. But that hotel, like all first impressions, affected everything else we saw there. And so Madrid still feels like a city that seems unknowable on the outside but is charming though a bit surreal in its depths. I blame Almodovar too.

But a real guide to a city should be more than a list of museums and famous streets. The heart of cities like San francisco, my own city, is not to be found in a casual stroll in North Beach. It is also there on Sunday mornings as the hipsters on Valencia st. vie for brunch tables at Boogaloo's, leafing through the Atlantic at Farley's in Potrero hill, standing in the burrito line at Pancho Villa, watching the campfires at Ocean beach, Shopping for fruit on Mission St. on a weekend, coffee in Noe Valley as a small parade of baby strollers and dogs go by...

But even as I wrote that, I realized I was hesitant to write too much. The best city is the one you discover on your own. Perhaps the best guide would be called The City guide to Moments of Accidental Discovery. By definition that perfect quide to a city cannot be written.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Our lives move fast cluttered as they are with details, chores, small rituals. We barely have time to collect a few memories (the image I have is of orchids placed selectively in a hothouse.) We keep going back to them and so they become stronger in our mind, like a recited chant.

There is an old philosophical puzzle. If you replace a plank on an antique ship, it is still an antique ship. But, if you replace all the planks, you have a whole new ship. At what point, the puzzle asks, does the antique ship become a new ship?

We ravage our memories like this too. Each time we visit them we re-play the story in our mind in a subtly altered way. We smooth out the narrative. We omit awkward or incongruous details. Soon, our own re-telling has more weight than the original. We've lost our first snapshot and all we have is the memory of those memories, a spiraling well of revision.
I am on my way to see my doctor downtown. Across from me on the BART an asian girl is sitting properly, dressed in a smart business suit, holding a leather binder carefully on her lap. She looks up at me and says to me with a nervous smile, "Is it that obvious that I am on my way to a job interview?"
My metabolism has been going crazy on me. Its a long story but its my fault. I've been unable to concentrate, i've had a strange sleep schedule and I am always cold. I'm still not better.

(as proof, i can't even get past 2 or 3 levels in this addictive flash game!)

I've been dreaming a lot - deep, feverish dreams.Over the past year or two, I've noticed that my recurring dreams fall into one of five categories:

1. Self-aware dreams (with portal too)
I have a shimmering portal inside my dreams that I can use to escape the dream at any time (borrowed from cheesy science fiction I guess)

2. Attacker in a closed space
These are nightmares and end up messing with my claustrophobia. I enter a small space. An attacker is there. Often i have already closed a door behind me. I usually wake up, terrified, before anything happens.

3. Serial dreams
Sometimes, over a series of nights I'll have a continuation of previous nights dreams. When these happen, rarely do they ever have anything to do with my life now. It is more as if I am dreaming someone elses life. The last one I recall had me traveling across a desert with a small family of aunts, uncles. Over a series of nights, the family would setup camp or wrestle with its internal conflicts. I help an aunt hobble across some rocks. The sun is setting and we all share stories while bathed in twilight.

4. Archetypal class dream
A class i signed up for, I just learned, is having a test or quiz. I realize that I have no idea where he class even meets as I have never showed up. So I am completely unprepared for this quiz - it looks like i'll fail.

5. Out-of-body dreams
I see myself from afar. I go out for a walk. Sometimes, in the morning after these types of dreams, I'll see something around the house that looks familiar, as if I was there during the night.
(My brother is a sleepwalker. My mother, who somehow awakened too, used to follow him around at night. As kids, we shared a room, and he would always babble constantly too, sometimes yelling, having arguments with someone in his dreams.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Roman Cieslewicz
I was leafing through my old copy of Cesar Vallejo: The complete posthumous poetry.
I originally picked this this up at a used bookstore somewhere. The frayed front page opens up to a page where people will write personal inscriptions.

There are two inscriptions in this book but one of them has been erased with white-out. Of course, I put the page up near a light-bulb but the words are illegible except one - the sign-off begins with the word 'Love,'

The second inscription reads "Merry Christmas Paul, Please keep this book... Love, Rosemary (Christmas 1989)"

Who erased the first inscription? Why would someone write a second inscription over a first one? What is the secret history of this book? Well now it sits in my hand. I open it up to page 67 and it reads...

Today I like life much less,
But I like to live anyway: I have often said it.
I almost touched the part of my whole and restrained myself
with a shot in the tongue behind my word.

Today I touch my chin in retreat
and in these momentary trousers I tell myself:
So much life and never!
So many years and always my weeks!...
My parents buried with their stone
and their sad stiffening that has not ended;
full length brothers, my brothers
and, finally, my Being standing and in a vest.

I like life enormously
but, of course
with my beloved death and my cafe
and looking at the leafy chestnut trees in Paris
and saying:
This is an eye, that one too; this a forehead, that one too...and repeating:
So much life and the tune never fails me!
So many years and always, always, always!

The poem continues. This poem is not particularly dark for Vallejo, who often writes about how men are tossed around cruelly by fate - many poems are about his own imagined death or the alienation he felt as a man in Paris or simply as a man.

I turned back to Vallejo recently since starting to read some books by Alfredo Bryce Echenique. Bryce Echenique is the author of El Guia Triste de Paris (The Sad Guide to Paris) , a collection of tales about strangers in Paris. Bryce Echenique shares with Vallejo, and also with a host of other Latin American writers such as Julio Cortazar, the sense of being suspended between two worlds. A small exodus of latin american writers led to Paris being referred to as the 'European capital of Latin America'. Many fled their homeland after having rejected their own society, living among it as curious outcasts. Arriving in Paris, however, many also discovered that the culture they sought was still in other ways alien to them. They existed as a sort of half-children in perpetual self-exile.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

I wish to end this brief review with a reference to Jennifer Miller, a contemporary "Bearded Lady" and a New Yorker who refuses to be victimized by her condition and who calls herself a "transgressive performer."

"I live in a very liminal place," she says. "It is a lovely place. In the theater it's when the lights go out and before the performance begins."

-from a review of Rosamond Purcell in RainTaxi
Have you ever established a code language - a simple one that sits on top of regular speech but can quickly communicate some other intended meaning?

For example, you might call a friend in the middle of a date and agree on a prescribed code. You ask her if she can make it to your party tomorrow. If she says she'll be late then the date is horrible. If she will be early, the date is going spectacular. If she'll be there extra early and might even bring over some dessert and help you cook, well....

On a darker note, I've had friends tell me that if they ever, for example, start talking about mangosteens in the middle of the conversation, then that means they have been kidnapped and I should call 911.

I can imagine taking this to an extreme. Each word or phrase also means a different word or phrase. Each action like the heavy thud of steps and each object, like an onion or a mirror, is also an element of a phrase whose conjunction writes a different story. (This might be like the opus-2 language of Chris Pressey in which deep red means to glorify and mothballs are the sign of danger.)

In a world in which every action has intentional meaning, most people must seem either like stuttering fools or like the creators of surreal collages (and you stare dumbfoundedly, head half-cocked, like a puzzled dog.) The graceful aesthete may go unnoticed by the rest of the world but you, with your intentional language, can pick him right out. Everyone else, for example, might only see a guy with a green shirt spilling his coffee on a small pile of books. But, to you, it is sublime poetry.

Friday, September 26, 2003

James has a really interesting first-hand account of the chess match between Blaine-in-a-box and a homeless man.

The game lasts in the order of six or seven hours. Watching intently, it is possibly to identify a weak, or seemingly inexplicable move. Blaine gives away a bishop very cheaply, relatively early on. Blaine and Greeff, though, are not Grand Masters, and to come along with a full stomach, nitpick the game and depart ten minutes later would be to miss the point. These are two players playing in exceptional circumstances. David Blaine, a third of the way through a feat of endurance, has not eaten for fifteen days. Francois is a homeless guy with a hidden disability.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

My book club meets tonight. Having not read the book, I have the perfect chance to enter the conversation with the least of preconceived notions, the perfect mind freed from judgement.

It reminds of this remark of Borges:

The composition of vast books is a laborious and impoverishing extravagance. To go on for five hundred pages developing an idea whose perfect oral exposition is possible in a few minutes! A better course of procedure is to pretend that these books already exist, and then to offer a resume, a commentary . . . More reasonable, more inept, more indolent, I have preferred to write notes upon imaginary books

I'll also try to not read the book next month.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Here are two songs from Astrud Gilberto for a hot San Francisco day:

1. Nao Tem Vez
2. How Insensitive
At my old place near 17th and Valencia, I used to brag about how there were at least 12 different bars within *one* block. When I moved to Bernal heights, I knew that number was only headed in one direction.

Last night, when looking for a nearby bar, I realized there were actually only three in my immediate neighborhood. My first choice is probably the Wild Side West which has a nice back patio and garden and a pool table. Its also one of the best lesbian bars in the city, but they are non-lesbian friendly.

Then theres Charlies, which is modern and hip but cant seem to get its business off the ground. Its a great place if you dont mind seeing the same ten people there. Still, the owner tells me, they are developing a cool backroom and the place should take off soon.

Finally, there's Skip's Tavern which is usually described as a 'neighborhood blues bar'. The music is good but whenever I've gone there it has that feeling like a fight is about to break out in the next 10 minutes. This could be a good or a bad thing depending on your mood.

There's only two other bars worth noting on nearby Mission St. First is The Odeon which seems like a cool place but it also seems like its trying hard to be a cool place which, in the unforgivable calculus of cool, probably means its not. Still, I havent actually had a drink there.

Then there is The Argus which holds a place in my heart. The first time I walked in there (in the middle of the afternoon of course) there was only one guy there and he was reading a Shakespeare play as he downed his beer. I had noticed that the place had a whole stack of books against one wall and when you look closer you realize that they are all paperbacks of different shakespeare plays.

When I went back later (I had to return) I asked the bartender what that was all about. He told me that a bunch of guys (and girls) used to show up there every monday night and read shakespeare plays aloud, assigning roles, and getting drunker and drunker until all coherence, if there ever was any, was lost. Apparently, the group disbanded but left all its paperbacks, culled from used bookstores and yard sales, to the bar where patrons still leaf through them as they down their whiskeys or cheap beer.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

I'm watching the convergence of cognitive neuroscience and physics. Succinctly, how do we perceive the world and what illusions do we create?

The work of Gazzaniga among split-brain patients:

In a wonderfully elegant experiment, a group of researchers led by Michael Gazzaniga at Dartmouth College showed pictures to the right and left hemispheres of a split-brain patient and then asked each hemisphere to pick another picture to accompany the one originally presented. The right side was shown (through the left half of the visual field) a house with snow and, logically enough, it picked a shovel. The left hemisphere was shown a chicken leg (through the right half of the visual field), and it picked a chicken head-also quite logically. The experimenters then verbally asked the patient to explain his choices. The left hemisphere was the only one that could articulate an answer, but remember-it did not know why his right counterpart had chosen a shovel, since the information about the house with the snow did not cross the severed corpus callosum. The patient's answer was as astounding as illuminating: "Oh, that's simple. The chicken claw goes with the chicken [which was true], and you need a shovel to clean out the chicken shed [which was coherent, but completely false]." In other words, the left hemisphere acted as an interpreter of the worldview of the individual and fabricated a just-so story to fit all the available data!

These sort of experiments have shown that the left hemisphere is in charge of our worldview, of the paradigms we currently hold about a variety of aspects of reality.

So theres enough evidence that volition is a carefully constructed illusion. Our higher brain may be nothing more than a deluded emperor who is kept in the dark by his cunning subordinates.

The first communications between the right brain and the left brain must have been like a spark gap being ignited. This is where Jaynes comes in who speculates that the 'unified brain' is a recent development. That our ancestors carried two brains and that they believed the authoritative whispers of the left brain were direct messages from the gods.

Autistics, like Tito, must bind together the different experiences of reality to create a larger view which we create seamlessly.

How does all this apply to physics? The deepest illusion we maintain is that of the notion of Time. We cant define it. When we sketch it out mathematically, it just behaves like Space and yet we "feel" that it is so fundamentally different. The illusion we maintain is that there is a coherent narrative of events or that there is a narrative at all. Not only the future, but also the past is being created at this very moment. These are the ideas that John Wheeler is pursuing.
All these little things, like a swarm of flies on a summer day.

Monday, September 15, 2003

I was away for the weekend. I slept. I swam. I read books (William Golding Free Fall, The tale of Monkey ) I played the piano. I watched the stars. I drank wine and ate dark chocolate.
I lay in the sun. I played scrabble. I got a massage (shaitsu and reflexology). I talked about swimming (How do bodies glide through water?) I laughed with a performance artist (not at her) and played word games with a red-haired (the color of yarn) girl. I talked about hawks (some ethereal play. how do hawks inspect the world? Are we below their notice?)
It would have been an even better weekend had I not forgotten to bring the coffee.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

In The monstrous and the marvelous, rikki ducornet explores the sense of the fantastic. She has a list of Optical pleasures which i found too good to pass up. I've reproduced pieces of it here and added links where appropriate:

Any number of things set off my chronic weakness:

-Edward Lear's paintings of parrots, Man Ray's photograph Glass Tears, the glass of Emile Galle...the ceramic dishes of Bernard Palissy...

-Paradises, true and false: the Tea Palace in Mantova is a prime example...

-The serpents painted by Jacopo Ligozzi, anything painted by Bosch or Maria-Sybilla Merian...Tenniel's illustrations for Alice

-A mural painted by Max Ernst for Paul Eluard's house called Au Premier mot limpide..

-Tumeric....the books of Jurgis Baltrusaitis


-The entire bestiary of Aloys Zotl

-Capricorn beetles

-..a glass by Dale Chihuly...

-The original edition of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica of 1768-1771.. Plate LXXIV (Book Two) contains the following:
1. an Electrical machine
2. a Cloud machine
3. an Elephant
4. an Echeneis
5. an Elater
6. an Erinaceus or Hedge Hog
7 & 8. Ermin and Ermine (Heraldric Crests)

The English version of the collected works of Georg Buchner has this to say about "Danton's Death":

The powerful theatricality which a modern audience may recognise is all the more suprising, since there is no evidence at all that Buchner was a theatre-goer or had any real conception of how a play was staged. Furthermore, he wrote the play not from any deep love of the theatre, but in a feverish rush, in five weeks and under constant threat of arrest, because he was desperately short of cash. Possibly it was this very naivety and haste that lent such freshness to his approach.

Well, that english was from an Amazon preview. I am reading "Dantons Tod" as a piece in his Werke Und Briefe. Its a small German hardback (pub 1968) that I have owned since 1992 as part of a small collection of German books a friend gave me back then.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

At about noon yesterday, LB called me and told me she had an extra ticket to go see the Dalai Lama who was in town. She had gotten the ticket from a Tibetan friend of hers who as a small girl had followed the Dalai Lama into exile.

I was asked by another friend who couldnt attend (it was USF students mostly and then Tibetan friends and media) about what my perception was of the Dalai lama in person. Did he have an aura, a presence?

I'm not sure I was in the best position to judge since the event took place in a basketball gymnasium. Thats not the kind of location, at least for me, that usually inspires transcendence. (A counter-example would be a Catholic Mass I attended a couple years ago at the summit of Mt. St-Michel, on a cold foggy french morning shortly after seeing a dead man in Paris. It is in this way that moments are constructed.)

I know he giggled a lot. Having not really heard him speak before, I was unsure of when he was joking or when he was serious. The strongest impression he gave to me was of someone who had achieved some measure of happiness.

There have been some recent articles on the subject of happinness. Also, some recent research seems to suggest that the practice of Buddhism does indeed make you a happier person.

Like most others, I am happiest when I am deeply engaged in the "now", in the present moment, engaged in a task that is stimulating or meaningful. But I cant exist only in the now. I also need to look up and see that the future itself will be full of grand surprises, undiscovered joys.

After the lecture, LB and I went to this great french bakery where I ate a Duck and Prunes sandwich while we chatted briefly about the lecture, about her friend and Tibetans in exile. The small moments did seem more pleasant so maybe his presence did have a calming effect, a lingering radiance.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

I've been recently playing around with Terragen, a fractal landscape generator which is quite easy to use for a beginner like myself. It has a wide following as well. And, although its is mostly used to generate static pictures, the community has started using it to generate planets and fly-overs.

I created the above picture in about 10-15 minutes. Its amazing how far this has come. I think I created my first fractal mountains on a silicon graphics box in 1993. It was just a crude wire rendition but I was so excited even then at the potential for realism.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Several burning man refugees are on their way here. Time to unfold couches and search for spare blankets.
While I was at my parent's house, three other houseguests were there too. In addition, they had some sort of party two out of the four days I was there. My parents are social creatures who thrive on having others around.

I'd walk around the house and, even if the room was empty, i could sense the presence of everyone else. I walked by the kitchen once and an unattended pot was mysteriously boiling. Walking back through a while later, the pot had disappeared and there was the faint scent of tea in the air.

I'd see some item, maybe a book or shoe, in one room and then later see it mysteriously appear in some other part of the house soon after. This happened enough that I started to suspect there was some sort of Underground Railroad for household objects.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

I am trying to find more information on SuperBarrio. Most articles on him date from the late 90's.

The figure of Superbarrio combines the circus-like atmosphere of masked mexican wrestling with modern political ideologies. He is a sublime performance artist and political activist. He dismantles corrupt politicans by casting them as ridiculous and laughable straight men - not as sources of fear and power.

His first presence on the world stage struck me as one of those moments when a people's ideas and will becomes so strong that it manifests into reality. As if he was willed into existence. His masked hero routine also resonates with those other masked populists - The Zapatistas.

For all these reasons and more, Latin intellectuals adore him. Here is Alberto Rios:

Superbarrio appeared a number of years ago when the police were evicting someone from a low income house. A crowd formed in the neighborhood, saying, "Don't do this, don't do this." Suddenly, a costumed, masked wrestler appeared, jumping up onto the bed of a truck. "Stop!" he said. "I am here. Superbarrio!" He gave a speech: you can't do this, and I stand for this and that. Sure enough, everybody rallied to the call, and kicked the police out of there.

Superbarrio started showing up in different places. But he didn't look the same in every photograph. It became apparent that different people were wearing the costume. This was brought to his attention. "Superbarrio," he was asked, "how come you look different in each of your photographs?" And he gave one of the best retorts of all time: "It is because I am everybody." What a great subversive notion, that the superhero is the people! It was a wonderful rallying point. And what other hope is there? Why not this?

Make your own Super Barrio Man Masken!

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Here is a sample of what I've been listening to lately. Japanese Garage Metal:

Electric Eel Shock's - Puma
(thanks to beatbox for the file)

I'm spending the rest of the afternoon reading in the back garden at Progressive Grounds
This week Step into Liquid is playing here at the Embarcadero theatres. A friend from high school told me about it. He and I both went to school with Brad Gerlach, one of the featured surfers in the movie. This isnt a huge surprise. My high school, in a small beach town in San Diego, was a small surfing magnet school. Surfing was a dominant culture and you could surf for your phys. ed. requirement.

In the photo of Gerlach linked above, he is doing tow-surfing. The waves he is surfing are so powerful that it is next to impossible to paddle into them and so as the wave breaks, a surfer is literally towed into the wave. Its as dangerous as it sounds. And Brad is one of the best in the world.

Monday, August 18, 2003

You know when you are sitting there silently and then suddenly (this all happens in an instant!) your head turns because you thought you saw something move? Perhaps it was a shadow that played across the floor or an artifact of the wind (though your mind uneasily suspects it may be a mouse scurrying for cover.) Thats been happening a lot to me recently and nothing is ever there. Still, I am compelled to look each time.

This little visual trick fascinated me as a kid. It seemed to come from deeper inside me, beyond volition, that instinct to turn and look. Are the shadows real that I see or were they too deceptions of my mind? How could I say i was in control of myself if I could not understand my own mind?

Equally impressive to me was that capability we have (the solution must be immense and devious) of picking out such tiny movements in such a large visual field. Years later, I got so much enjoyment of the method that astronomers use to find comets or other moving objects in a large starfield. Not with computation of course but by flashing two overlayed images (like an animated gif) and letting our magnificent eye hone in on the moving target. An old slide projector will do the trick too.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

"If life is a cabaret, Pink Martini is the band in the existential orchestra pit." - CMJ New Music Monthly

Pink Martini is one of those bands that people discover either by accident or because a friend has talked about them glowingly. After this discovery, they become like a secret treasure. The woman who cuts my hair just recently told me, out of the blue, how much she adores her Pink Martini CD.

I went to school with both Thomas (bandleader and pianist) and China (singer) and lived in the same (upperclassmen) House. Thomas threw some of the best parties, the kind people still talk about to this day and are referenced in urban legends pages

If you have a chance to see them live, dont miss it. The stuff they perform could fill several unreleased albums. And China's voice is even more spectacular, whether she sings in Spanish, French, Japanese or Croatian - I am not kidding.

Here is Song of the Black Lizard from their album Sympathique. The song was I believe written by the writer Yukio Mishima for a bizarre movie that he wrote the screenplay for and in which he played a small role. But, you should go out and buy the album.
I am posting some good info (list of free programs) that I got from Roderick. It appears that the worm has hit a lot of people:

I have personally used the 1st on the list of each group with an ADSL connection through aol proxies on a W2k OS - I confirm they work well.

Sygate Firewall This product backtraces more nodes than my $60 McAfee!
Zone Alarm A respected program by all accounts but untested by me.

AVG Anti-virus by Grisoft
Avast3, Free for home users May have to dig about on the page, but it is free for home use only.

SpyWare Killers (Removes all those naughty little cookies and advertising programs that arrive with so-called free programs.)
Spybot, non-commercial So good I sent him $20
Lavasoft Ad-aware However rumoured to let a few 'selected' cookies remain on the system

Trojan Killer
Swat-It I havent tried this myself, the free links are in the left lower frame area.
I hope you find the links useful.

Friday, August 15, 2003

I was reading about coded phrases in music, in this case Miles Davis and his musicians. A tight musical outfit always struck me as the perfect example of how different people can work synchronously, almost as one - even more so than the rapidly intertwining legs of a tango dance.

Music also forms a nicely closed system. As in the coded phrases, musical language is being used to talk about music itself, laying out hints of what the next series of progressions will be, future changes in tone and key. The remarkable thing is that even these phrases were never articulated or translated into language. As the author says, "The "explicit verbal instruction" in Miles's music never existed, not even in the preparation of pieces... it is clear that the so-called "coded phrases" were never formalized in the sense of a priori agreements or even arrangements. "

The musicians, like the listeners of a piece, were acting on instinct. Its hard to describe how a piece of music really makes you feel. It communicates directly with the language of emotions which is much more rich and complex than the pale language of words. To say that a piece is mournful or joyous is to burglarize it of everything but the obvious.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

She, my cousin, my sister, reminded me of how we all played as children. I was lost in thought it seems, concocting some new game or pastime. Her and my brother were partners in mischief.

I was cruel to you, she admits as she smiles. Her husband laughs at the understatement. Yes, I said, but you were also the person who taught me how to swim. A small bit of cruelty was just the thing I needed.

Monday, August 11, 2003

A: All your favorite movies involve spaceships dont they?
me: What?! What do you mean? My favorite movie is Fellini's 8 1/2!


me: Come to think of it, that movie does have a spaceship in it...
A: Aha! I knew it.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

I was part of a Flash mob this afternoon. The email arrived and told us to go meet at different bars in the Mission organized by our birth months. Then, sometime between 1 and 2pm we were to be given instructions on a slip of paper by an organizer as to what to do next.

So we went, three of us to Dolores Park cafe. There we found others and the organizer and received our next set of instructions. They said we were to all leave the bar/cafe at 1:57pm and arrive at a certain spot in Dolores park. At 2:05 pm we were all to form circles with everyone there and await what happened next.

It was fascinating. At 2:05pm, two hundred random people suddenly assembled in Dolores park near the childrens area. What happened next? We played a 200-person game of Duck, Duck Goose. People running frantically, counting heads, screaming like children.

At 2:17pm everyone dispersed in different directions as suddenly as they had appeared. The instruction sheet told us that if anyone asked what had just happened we were supposed to lie. Flash mob over.

(I also ran into Michelle who is throwing a burning man fundraiser party tonight (her sister says: you are throwing a party to raise money for a party?) It is tonight from 9pm to 5am at 333 Fremont St. She mentioned she has some djs spinning trance and downbeat. It should be fun and surreal.)

I stopped by Borderlands books and picked up a copy of The Sparrow today. I started reading it in the hot sun, with a cup of strong coffee in hand, listening to monkey radio
Paul writes i only wish i could somehow make time stand still so i could really experience and savor my life. am i too greedy?

If we start with this, a succession of moments, then most of us are madly sprinting from one foreseen moment to the next like people caught in a rainstorm. We catch glimpses of our next shelter and race towards it, oblivious.

When the present is immense and beautiful, we want to grasp it, hold it tightly as two lovers hold each other as they part, fighting uselessly against the current of moments.

If only i could re-imagine her in my mind as a fully realized creation, he thinks. If I could carry her inside me so that that the dreary seconds expand again and become timeless. So that we could create our own small universe with its own laws of physics and halt the flow of time.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Beijing street scene, Marc Riboud
The last few years of my life have been a heroic attempt to avoid working. When I left [big Silicon Valley company] in 1998, I thought I'd just live on my savings for a while until I decided what to do next. But this was 1998 and only a month after leaving I got a random call from an ex-co-worker who said he he had heard I was free and he had loads of VC money in his pocket and would I join him. I said sure.

Only a year or so later, after some dissatisfaction with some other co-founders, I and the VP of Sales, who had become a close friend, left that company to start our own company. Again, getting money for our project was not difficult at all.

That company is where I still work now. We have had our share of turmoil, of expansion, of contraction. But I have been able to draw a good salary and also have the free time I need to travel, work at home or just mess around. Last month I was able to go to Europe on a whim. My partner decided at the same time to skip off with his wife to the south of France.

Now, this same small company is in the process of growing fast. These last few weeks I put aside my usual compunction and focused, and worked. If all goes as planned, we should be hiring soon and perhaps opening a new office. All this in the midst of a recession.

But for me this means that I can now put into action some plans I have had for the past year.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Sunday, August 03, 2003

So much is happening and yet nothing is happening at all. I dont seem to be able to write or speak or tell a story. Well, here's something.

I had a wolf in my house this past week. This is no allegory but a real incarnation. The difference between wolves and dogs is i think that wolves, more ancient creatures, are still aligned with their packs and less so with the broader world of people, of society, of dog parks.

She was fierce and willful at times. She was strong and cunning enough to all but destroy a cage and discover some hidden latches. She could not be contained. If she was upset she would rip a book from the shelf and tear it into pieces. The floor looked like the aftermath of a parade.

Other times, she was like an overgrown puppy. She would follow me around with soft eyes and stay as close to me as possible, sometimes pressing against me even as we walked. At night, she demanded attention and if you did not provide it, she would bite your feet or curl her body insistently on top of yours.

When enough was enough, she was exiled to the backyard. She would in most cases pace near the window, watching you carefully with her cunning eyes.

Last friday she was handed over to a rescue organization. The transaction took place in the parking lot of a Safeway, in the suburban east bay. It was like one of those gangster movies - precious cargo being exchanged under the cover of a public space.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Baila la Cumbia!

Cumbia is one of the world's great dance grooves. It is made up of merry guitars and accordions, torrid brass, and insistent, deep-toned drums and percussion, pounding out a lopsided, strutting 4/4 rhythm with a kick like nitroglycerine.
-The Rough Guide to Cumbia

It originated in Colombia but this is the music that fills dance halls in Mexico past the onset of darkness. Men with greasy hair and sharp suits. Women with backless dresses and short skirts. All wildly swaying their hips. The music is hypnotic, cowboy music, rural trance.

Here is Cumbia Sobre el Rio from Celso Pina, who is infusing cumbia with modern elements from rap and reggae.

Friday, July 25, 2003

I have been playing with light and how it falls around me. Translucence and shadows.

I grew up in a sleepy surf town but felt most at home in downtown manhattan. Cities are where I grew up, where my emotions developed (like the rough shine of tarnished copper.)

I think that I can feel time, that movement across spaces and habits of being. Sometimes it is abrupt, like a door thrown open, other times graceful, like a body moving through silk curtains.
I'm gonna eat you little fishy!

Fishy is a very relaxing game

Me, swimming with the fishys (sort of)

Sunday, July 13, 2003

The Creation of the Birds by Remedios Varo

Saturday, July 12, 2003

The imperfect mirror

if you make something perfectly symmetrical and then give it a small fracture you have an almost-symmetry. The nature of these things is that whereas in symmetry the focus is on the whole, now the focus is on the fracture.

Because we are all different, we are fascinated and consumed by different problems. Sometimes our individual obsessions may even define us. We are a unique accumulation of obsessions. One of my obsessions has always been the imperfect mirror.

The first place I discovered imperfect mirrors was in physics. Our universe is riddled with slightly fractured mirrors and yet physicists generally do not make a big deal of this.

Take for example, reversal in time. Forget all that entropy stuff you have been fed. The truth is that even particle processes are not reversible in time. Well, actually, most processes are with the exception so far .. of one! "Only the weak nuclear force appears to violate this symmetry, and this so far only in the behavior of the neutral kaon."

This is a good example of a fractured mirror. The same is true with actual mirror symmetry. If you held up a huge mirror to the universe, all physics you see happening in the mirror (objects falling under gravity etc) would be physics that happens here too. Well, once again with the exception of just one sort of interaction "Mirror image of a charged weak process has never been observed."

I have always understood, I think, that only imperfect mirrors can exist. Unbroken symmetry is an ideal only, a construction of our minds. For us to know left from right, light from dark, past from future, a transgressor must exist who by crossing the boundaries of the mirror brings the whole thing into definition. We can only tell light from dark because of the shadows.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

On the 11 hour Virgin flight, I kept listening to Junior Senior's move your feet. I have found that it is difficult to dance in your seat.

They also had 50 movies you could watch. This is Chavela Vargas' la Llorona , a haunting song, from the movie Frida.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

I have been back now for several days but feel as if I am still settling back into my life in san francisco. It feels as if I am still waking up, as if I have emerged from a dream.

(For no particular reason I mention that the spanish word for dream is sueño (pronounced 'swen-yo') So, to say 'she dreams' I would say 'sueña' (swen-ya))

Orginally, I was going to visit old college friends. First, Dan in Heidelberg who works as an astronomer for the Max Planck Institut. Then Ian and Jessica in London. As it turned out, I spent most of my trip, 10 days, in Hamburg or traveling around Northern Germany with Mina.

First was Berlin which I mentioned below. Then Hamburg where we played scrabble in cafes and walked along the Reeperbahn and I learned about Barbapapas. Then Kiel, where we sailed on the Baltic sea and saw fireworks on the Bay and I saw Blandine again who seemed to be tailing us everywhere.

I also spent some time in odd cafes where we ordered two spezzi and yet paid 30 euros. I recommend you check the bill if this happens to you.

The Hamburg Harbor was magnificent. It was an enormous labyrinth of machines and shipyards and cranes and even water-filled residential byways. After taking a boat through the harbor we took an elevator down to an old beautiful tunnel still used by cars which are lifted up and down and then creep slowly beneath the waters along narrow lanes that were originally meant for horses. Walking along these tunnels was both strange and wonderful.

The whole trip was composed of moments like that. Short but timeless episodes.

These last few weeks have been amazing. It was more than a dream because it was real. When we wake up and we long to return to our dreams it is because we miss that sense of being in the present, of acting out something beautiful. In our dreams we can imagine and feel happiness (just as in our nightmares we can imagine horror) But that happiness is also real, as real as anything else. It is not imagined.