Sunday, December 05, 2004


Saturday night I was walking on my way to meet friends for dinner (at Deep Sushi(great photos in that link)) when I was distracted by sound and a shiny, non-descript storefront. It sounded like Salsa to me. I opened the door and it was like when you open a portal to another time and space. In a tiny basement, an entire 10-piece band was playing Cuban Salsa. The center of the basement was packed with older couples (women in red backless dresses, men in striped suits) dancing wildly surrounded by a crowd of admirers rocking back and forth to the music. The little basement was alive and the whole thing had a sense of spontaneity to it, as if this had all erupted suddenly and was apt to disappear. Sure enough, when I went by later that night to show some friends, all we found was a sleepy basement bar with a few people idly playing around a large pool table. It could have all been imagined by me but luckily I managed to snap a couple pictures with my cameraphone.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004



I am cheered up by the strange little nonsense plays of Jodorowsky. The Panic plays are pure fun. His films on the other hand are pure strangeness. Either way, his work is undiluted. I downloaded some of the plays online but now I cant seem to find the source again. Here's an excerpt from Cabaret Tragico:

D : ¡Insultame para que me enoje!
A : ¡Cochino! ¡Puerco! ¡Chancho! ¡Cerdo!
D : ¡Mas insultos!
A : ¡Cerdo! ¡Chancho! ¡Puerco! ¡Cochino!
D : ¡Mas aun!
A :¡Puerchino! ¡Cercho! ¡Chanco!
D : No es bastante, no estoy enojado.
A : No conozco mas insultos...
D : No importa, el tono es lo que cuenta, no el concepto. Dicho con furia todo es insulto.
A : Comprendo...¡Papa frita! ¡Bicicleta verde! ¡Telescopio! ¡Microscopio! ¡Corbata! ¡Tomate! ¡Cereza! ¡Boton! ¡arbol! ¡Arbusto! ¡Florcita! ¡Pajarito! ¡Mi amigo!

*Dictionary of the Khazars

I'll admit I was intrigued by this book when I heard that it came in both a male and a female edition. This is a fantastic world and a book I'd recommend. I bought the female edition.

*Marc Saporta's Composition #1

I tracked down a copy of this on a whim. I like the idea behind the work even as i expect to be dissapointed in the execution. A stack of pages, to be shuffled first then read in this arbitrary order. Here's the thesis:

The reader is requested to shuffle these pages like a deck of cards; to cut, if he likes, with his left hand, as at a fortuneteller's. The order the pages then assume will orient X's fate.

For the time and order of events control a man's life more than the nature of such events. Certainly there is a framework which history imposes: the presence of a man in the resistance, his transfer to the Army of Occupation in Germany, relate to a specific period. Similarly, the events that marked his childhood cannot be presented in the same way as those which he experienced as an adult.

Nor is it a matter of indifference to know if he met his mistress Dagmar before or after his marriage; if he took advantage of Helga at the time of her adolescence or her maturity; if the theft he has committed occurred under cover of the resistance or in less troubles times; if the automobile accident in which he has been hurt is unrelated to the theft -- or the rape -- or if it occurred during his getaway.

Whether the story ends well or badly depends on the concatenation of circumstances. A life if composed of many elements. But the number of possible compositions is infinite.

(Note: I wrote this quickly after dashing into a wireless coffe shop (Mission Creek) after having dinner across the street at Herbivore on Valencia St.)

Monday, November 29, 2004

Mexico as an Earthly Purgatory

Nathan Gardels: Mexico seems like an earthly purgatory, permanently suspended in contradiction...

Octavio Paz: Purgatory is a very apt characterization. Purgatory is a transitional state, a compromise. Perhaps that has been Mexico's fate. We have always had these two poles, pre-Columbian civilization and Spanish Catholicism and monarchy; great art and historical setbacks; marvelous poets and weak criticism; beautiful churches and palaces side-by-side with huts and hovels.

We have made a mix of this and that is our purgatory. We live amid our contradictions - our saints and our Indian gods; our republic and our enduring centralization of power; our peasants adoring the Virgin with the same fervor which their ancestors praised the Earth Goddess alongside our young economists from Harvard and our professors of philosophy fresh from Paris.

We have not solved these contradictions, but with them and through them we have created a truly original culture. We are alive at the end of the 20th century.

This is from a 1987 interview of Octavio Paz in The New Perspectives Quarterly. This brew of the Pre-Columbian imagination and the rites of Old World Catholicism are responsible for the surreal images captured by Shadowplay in this photoset of Mexico.

Those images capture Semana Santa as a resurrection, a Biblical play, as it unfolds in the area of Patzcuaro in the Mexican state of Michoacan. The nearby island of Janitzio, as it turns out, is an epicenter for the more well-known Mexican Day of the Dead. And so, these two fantastic worlds, one full of dancing skeletons, the other with figures sprouting wings exist, literally, side by side, distinct, two expressions of an original culture.

Monday, November 22, 2004

An indian man approached me today when I was down in Silicon Valley.
"Excuse me," he said "You were with XYZ company in 1999 right?"
"Yes," I say "I was..."

"You interviewed me then, in India. And you hired me."

I had flown to India to recruit developers for our India office. I spent a whirlwind few weeks in Hyderabad and Banagalore, meeting with officials, cutting through dark red tape, helping to secure our offices, meeting with potential partners and clients and, finally, hiring.

The administrators we had hired beforehand had already filtered out resumes of people who had responded to our ads but were clearly unqualified. This still left us with a few hundred resumes to sift through. S. and I spent a couple days going through them all, putting them into three categories: Definite interview, Possible and No Way. The latter were immediately sent thank you notes. The Definites were sent an invitation to come in for an interview.

Since our Bangalore office hadn't been set up, I rented a suite in a hotel and used one of the rooms to do my interviews. My assistant C. acted as a gatekeeper. She had flown with me from the U.S. and together we were the two foreigners trying to assimilate into the culture as quickly as possible (In the end, she wasnt able to and had a nervous breakdown but thats another story, which ends with her almost marrying a Bollywood movie star. But, again, thats another story) I worked almost without sleeping, catching quick naps in the back seat of the Honda as my driver raced from one place to another. Those were insane times.

I interviewed about forty people in the course of just two days so I can be forgiven for not recalling the man who approached me today. I had suggested we hire him and we did. Later, he was flown to the US to work in our offices here in the Bay Area. We sponsored his H-1 Visa. He left our company and went on to work for a large company here where he is doing really well. All of this because I hired him in India. I had forgotten him but he remembered my name and had recognized me by sight and even told me that I had "inspired" him.

Later, when I told this to A. she says "Much of life is like that. You set off so many things and rarely do you get the chance to see the results of what you started."

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Jiri Trnka's The Cybernetic Grandmother

Jiri Trnka animated films when animation was a craft intended for adults as well as children. His rendition of Shakespeare's Midsummers Nights Dream took him years to create. It is unfindable now but you can see clips of it and some of his other films at this animators site.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

It is a dream that we invent. Instead we just assemble old memories, our own and those of others. Especially those of others. With each visit, they further colonize your imagination.
"I know" you said "lets go to an opera, but lets first get drunk."
"Is intoxication all you know?"
"Do you mean the opera or the drinks?"
Did you know that, while you puzzled over your crossword puzzles, twisting your face in concentration, I would study your long, elegant fingers. I thought: She is like a dark-haired magician from an old book.
You put your fingers on my lips and squeeze them, like a clothespin.
"Gayetas. You cant even speak your own language."
When the rain fell, we all ran madly in every direction like perturbed ants.
It was the middle of the humid summer in NYC and our thin clothes were soaked. I saw you dancing at that Spanish bar on the Westside.
I walked you home later that night and you held me tightly, almost anxiously, as if you feared I would run away.
I was dazed and tired, a sleepwalker, awaking from a heated dream. You led me along, turned to beckon me with your finger, then ran, vanished behind a corner and reappeared again. I knew who you were. I whispered your name to you.
"Do you remember, beloved, how we all fled in so many directions? When we saw what had happened? We all met again at the nearest hill do you remember?" you whispered back to me.
"Yes" I said "That was centuries ago."

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

From Oskar Schlemmer of the Bauhaus, whose paintings seem to dance.
Those were the best days in the life of Tancredi and Angelica, lives later to be so variegated, so erring, against the inevitable background of sorrows. But that they did not know then; and they were pursuing a future which they deemed more concrete than it turned out to be, made of nothing but smoke and wind. When they were old and uselessly wise their thoughts would go back to those days with insistent regret, they had been days when desire was always present because it was always overcome, when many beds had been offered and refused, when the sensual urge, because restrained, had for one second been sublimated in renunciation, that is into real love. Those days were the preparation for a marriage which , even erotically, was no success; a preparation which, however, was in a way sufficient to itself, exquisite and brief, like those melodies which outlive the forgotten works they belong to and hint in their delicate and veiled gaiety at themes which later in the finished work were to be developed without skill, and fail.

From one of my favorite novels: The Leopard by Di Lampedusa

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The fate of Senster, a robot that could respond to the sound of people's voices and their movements across its field. I agree with dataisnature that looking at this photograph of Senster, chained and seemingly abandoned, is like looking at metallic bones.

Friday, November 12, 2004

The Cult of the Frog is growing. I received my black shirt from Michael this week. Several friends have asked me for one. Schlomo, at his bar, is almost getting mugged for them.

Do you remember me?
And that chick you danced with two times through the Rufus album friday night at that party
on Avenue A
where your skin-head friend passed out for several hours on the bathroom floor
And you told me you weren't that drunk
And that I was your favorite Salsa dancer you had ever come across in NYC
And when we were finished making out, we noticed that your skinhead friend was gone
And you looked into my bloodshot eyes and said
"is it too soon if I call you Sunday"

-from Pink Martini's Eugene
(not on any albums...yet. You can email me for the MP3)

Toshio Hirano, the Japanese Cowboy
is Waiting for a Train (MP3 here)

Garcia Marquez's new as-yet-untranslated novel:
Memories of my Melancholy Whores begins
“In my ninetieth year, I decided to give myself the gift of a night of love with a young virgin.”

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Celia Johnson, Incubators

Most of the art I really enjoy is from Illustrators or Graffiti artists or some combination.

Take a look at this years offerings from Art Basel, as an example of the state of Modern Art, and see if it doesnt seem like they are caught up in a self-reflective whirlwind.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Paul Davies: Many great scientists throughout their life have a vision. Do you have a vision?

John Wheeler: Well, to me it’s the picture that the whole of this existence of ours will some day have its single, central principle spring to life, that will be so natural we’ll say to ourselves: How could it have been otherwise and how could we have been so stupid all these years not to have seen it.

This is Wheeler's vision of the Grand. Like a mischevious elf, who sneaks in to leave unexpected gifts, Wheeler has been sowing the world of Physics with most of the bizzare but beautiful ideas that lie at its borders. He is a metaphysician in disguise.

I used to think that Feynman was divinely inspired when he first sketched the foundation for a timeless universe when he introduced this: Anti-matter is Matter which is traveling backwards in Time.

So, for example, when a proton and an antiproton collide and annihilate, what has really happened is that one particle has reversed its direction in Time. Anyways, Feynman admits (in his Nobel lecture) he got this idea from Wheeler who was his mentor:

...I received a telephone call one day at the graduate college at Princeton from Professor Wheeler, in which he said, "Feynman, I know why all electrons have the same charge and the same mass" "Why?" "Because, they are all the same electron!" And, then he explained on the telephone, "suppose that the world lines which we were ordinarily considering before in time and space - instead of only going up in time were a tremendous knot, and then, when we cut through the knot, by the plane corresponding to a fixed time, we would see many, many world lines and that would represent many electrons, except for one thing. If in one section this is an ordinary electron world line, in the section in which it reversed itself and is coming back from the future ... I did not take the idea that all the electrons were the same one from him as seriously as I took the observation that positrons could simply be represented as electrons going from the future to the past in a back section of their world lines. That, I stole!

Wheeler was a colleague of Einstein. Wheeler himself was a student of Neils Bohr. But Wheeler is famous for his students. It was Wheeler who guided his student Everett in forming the Many Worlds Hypothesis - the strange theory of multiple worlds which brings to life Borges' vision of a cosmic garden of forking paths. He also taught Tipler who went on to devise his own universe where humans are all re-incarnated near the end of time.

Wheeler just turned 90 and parties were had. These days he is still thinking about the consequences of his work on delayed-choice, an unsettling consequence of quantum mechanics, the essential idea being that the Past isnt fixed in any way until we decide to observe it and how we will observe it. At this moment, as experiments seem to prove, we are creating the Past, somehow summoning it into existence.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

From 1929 to 1962, the French phenomenologist, Gaston Bachelard wrote several books in which he analysed and elucidated the "poetics" of matter, revealing the subtle yet profound ways the properties and associations of various substances affect the imagination. He demonstrated scientifically that water, for instance, could be experienced as "dissolved girl."

I am not sure whether Peter Blegvad is talking about Bachelard's book Poetics of Space which I read a long time ago and, after reading a few pages, decided to give it my own poetic kick across the room.

But it doesnt matter. Blegvad is having fun. There's a small cult of Blegvad out there. The quote above is from his site On Numinosity where you can also find and play with some Numinosity Flash toys. Also, it will become clearer that an object or thing (or person!) has three manifestations in the world - the object you imagine, the object you observe, and the object you remember. And so this already crowded space of objects unfolds into a kaleidoscope.

Blegvad also writes a comic strip called Leviathan which manages to reference every major French philosopher out there but is ultimately just about the world of a little boy named Levi. Predictably, Blegvad also has a band and makes music. So Blegvad is a rock star, literally as well as figuratively.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

In an interview in the Paris Review, Gabriel Garcia Marquez said:

The first line [of Kafka's Metamorphosis] reads "As Gregor Samsa awoke that morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect..." When I read the line I thought to myself that I didn't know anyone was allowed to to write things like that. If I had known, I would have started writing a long time ago.

I love this passage for many reasons. One is that notion of "I didnt know anyone was allowed" which describes perfectly that sense, as you lean into your years of self-examination, that there are these piles of rules you inherited and now you must decide which are sensible and which others are meant to be shattered. The latter rules are the ones, that by breaking, allow you to become more yourself.

Garcia Marquez, a brilliant student of this process, went on to become one of the masters of the opening line:

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice
-from One Hundred Years of Solitude

It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love

-from Love in the Time of Cholera


Jose Palacios, his oldest servant, found him floating naked with his eyes open in the purifying waters of his bath and thought he had drowned. He knew this was one of the many ways the General meditated, but the ecstasy in which he lay drifting seemed that of a man no longer of this world.

-from The General in his Labyrinth

Friday, November 05, 2004

The Templar initiation well at Quinta de Regaleira
via O Mundo de Claudia

Claudia and Banubula are characters from the same novel. Except Claudia is real. Except also that I am real, if you don't count those days when I miss my morning shot of espresso.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The dark poet of Latin-American letters is Cesar Vallejo. While Neruda wrote about the intoxicating heights of love, Vallejo wrote clearly and passionately about the lowest levels of despair, about suffering and about the irrevocable blows of blind fate. All of these emotions are condensed into The Black Riders or even the more contemplative "Idle on a stone":

Idle on a stone,
scroungy, horrifying,
at the bank of the Seine, it comes and goes.
Conscience then sprouts from the river,
with petiole and outlines of the greedy tree;
from the river the city rises and falls, made of embraced wolves.

The idle one sees it coming and going,
monumental, carrying his fasts in his concave head,
on his chest his purest lice
and below
his little sound, that of his pelvis,
silent between two big decisions,
and below,
further down,
a paperscrap, a nail, a match. . .

Monday, November 01, 2004


Caballos. from loren.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

1. The houseguests have gone back to their homes in Amsterdam and Rome. A. is in Colorado, working to help swing the election. The city feels so quiet now. A distant shout feels like a rude interruption. This seems like one of those days without rhythm or pace, as if the music has stopped and the people in the street are just ambling along like confused dancers.

2. A fat Mexican man is strolling up and down 22nd St. in the Mission. He is dressed normally except for the paper bag he is wearing on his head. His eyes look out from two small eyeholes. It is lightly adorned in bold colors, as if his children had made it. He belongs either in a comedy or a horror movie. Take your choice.

Why is it more disturbing when a thing is only slightly altered? A garish halloween costume is not frightening. But when we detect that a small detail is out of place, that the scene or event has been subtly altered, then it may be something more subversive. We are being deceived. We are in danger and danger has unknowingly betrayed itself.

3. I am used to the Mission bus being packed with homeless people, young gangsters and even the occasional prostitute. But, today I was standing next to a man who had blood coming out of his mouth, with spatters on his shirt and coat. "You need help" someone said. "I'm heading to SF General" he replied. He was on the wrong bus.

When he got off the bus, I followed him even though it wasn't my stop. He seemed dazed and wasn't walking straight. I tried to get him a cab but all the cab drivers shook their head and drove off stone-faced when they got one look at him. I asked him what had happened to him, what circumstances had led to this. He insisted some random kids had socked him in the jaw.
I sat with him at the bus stop, sitting with him at the curb until the bus came. He was leaning over like a drunk. "You're a mess" I said. "Thank you for all your help" he replied.

The Vostok Orbiter

Thursday, October 28, 2004

A Conversation Yesterday with all the Context Removed:

Man #1:
I mean, I said yes but I can't really say that I have it in me, that I
even know what that means or how it would work in the future...

Man #2:
Don't think about the future. Think about the moment, about now, about
what is happening to you. Focus on the present. Things will start
happening now but they will happen suddenly, driven by emotion,
emotions you didnt know you had.

Man #1:
You know what will happen to me! What will happen to me?

Man #2:
Things will change quickly for you now. In a month, you'll be a
different person; in a year, you'll be another person. You'll look
back on this time and it will all seem so confused, so mad, like a
nonsense dream.

This whole next year will all feel immediate for you, really vivid and
real. You will feel it all deeply. You will fall in love with the
world one day and you will despise it the next. The smallest things
will make your heart race. The memory of this next year will be burned
deeply into you.

It's odd but a part of you is waking up, is about to wake up. That is
why you will be and feel more alive.

I can tell you that things will be terrible but they will also be
wonderful. Things will just happen and they will make no sense but
later, you will look back and it will seem, well not obvious, but ...
inevitable. you go...

Take good care of yourself

Man #1:
Thank you, Sir. And thank you for your advice.

Seeing Lichtenstein at the SFMOMA this week is a treat. But also see some of the original comics images that Lichtenstein used. As in the case above, the changes were sometimes small and cosmetic.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

I was at Amnesia with MB last night. While we were drinking I noticed this man walk in, an Asian man with unfashionable glasses, slightly stooped, walking timidly, dressed in khakis and a white shirt, like an oppressed office worker. Except, he also had a guitar case and he headed straight for the stage.

The stagelights come on, he brings out his guitar and, in heavily broken English, tells the audience how much he adores the country singer Jimmie Rodgers. So, he breaks out into song, twanging his guitar and even doing country yodels. His name is Toshio Hirano, a native of Japan. He learned to sing country blues before he learned to speak English.

The people in the bar were slightly stunned but that didnt stop them from breaking out into wild applause.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Notes from my Birthday:

1. Friends from Costa Rica had invited me to come visit them for my birthday. But this year I decided I would just stay in the city and fill my day with quiet reunions with friends.

2. I didn't recognize B. not only because I hadn't seen her in a year but also because she had a wig on and was dressed like the St. Pauli girl. This was the theme of the party. Oktoberfest. I dont think she knows how much I really like her. (Well, perhaps now she does.)
I had been invited to a few parties Saturday. Usually my tendency is to stay home but Saturday I decided to go out with A. and LR (and a few others later) B.'s party was the highlight of the evening.

3. The home-cooked Italian meal that Alessandra made was amazing. She grew up in Rome. Now I know how to make Pasta Carbonara (with eggs and pancetta!) and Saltimbocca alla Romana (the prosciutto makes it)

4. Alexie, hands waving, is telling me how he cannot find the right woman. Two blonde girls are walking towards us. Alexie, in an extroverted mood, gestures to one of them and says "See? Here for example is my ideal woman! The way she walks, her hair..."

The girl Alexie had pointed out is understandably startled but they both pause to try to make sense of this. Alexie adds "I bet you are a Taurus! This always happens between me and Tauruses..."

The girl's eyes brighten. "I am a Taurus!" Her friend says "Wow, perhaps you two are soulmates."

A few minutes later, Alexie has gotten the girl's phone number. As we are walking away, her friend yells at us "You'd better call her!"

5. Fudge cake birthday cake

6. Butterflies

7. Reflexology
She ran into the woods and was not found by the servants until the sun was going down.

Seven years later she sneaked away from St. Torpid's to buy forbidden jujubes.

The hippopotamus attracted her attention from the back of a pantechnicon. "Fly at once! he said. "All is discovered."

She remembered the novel with yellow covers at the bottom of the laundry bag.

-from Edward Gorey's The Admonitory Hippopotamus

Friday, October 22, 2004

The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter--and the Bird is on the wing.

-Omar Khayyam (trans. Fitzgerald)

The natural inheritance of everyone who is capable of spiritual life is an unsubdued forest where the wolf howls and the obscene bird of night chatters.

-Henry James Sr. (as quoted by Donoso)

I found Melissa, washed up like a half-drowned bird, on the dreary littorals of Alexandria...
-Justine, Lawrence Durrell

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Paul Brennan: You end your book with a quotation from Rousseau, who has written about writing as a kind of dreaming. He says:

The dreams of bad nights are given to us as philosophy. You will say that I too am a dreamer. I admit this. But I do what others fail to do. I give my dreams as dreams and leave the reader to discover whether there is anything in them which may prove useful to those who are awake.

My question to you is: are you allowing me to interview in much the same spirit - as a dream to be taken as the listener or reader wishes?

Jacques Derrida: Yes, but if I were to indulge in saying so, I would imply that I am totally awakened while dreaming, and I have no illusion about that.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Synchronicity: The House which bursts into Flames

I've always really loved Jung's anecdote of the scarab:

A young woman I was treating had, at a critical moment, a dream in which she was given a golden scarab. While she was telling me his dream I sat with my back to the closed window. Suddenly I heard a noise behind me, like a gentle tapping. I turned round and saw a flying insect knocking against the window-pane from outside. I opened the window and caught the creature in the air as it flew in. It was the nearest analogy to the golden scarab that one finds in our latitudes, a scarabaeid beetle, the common rose-chafer (Cetoaia urata) which contrary to its usual habits had evidently felt an urge to get into a dark room at this particular moment. I must admit that nothing like it ever happened to me before or since, and that the dream of the patient has remained unique in my experience.

Jung was the man who coined the word "Synchronicity" to describe this strange confluence of events. It's not that the beetle emerged from the dream but that the dreamworld is one of several parallel paths in our life, paths which sometimes collide. These parallel events are intertwined and the law of cause and effect runs not only forward in time but also laterally, across worlds. Novalis puts it best:

There are ideal series of events which run parallel with the real ones. They rarely coincide. Men and circumstances generally modify the ideal train of events, so that it seems imperfect, and its consequences are equally imperfect.

Jung was also the author of Synchronicity, an exploration of this collision of worlds or rather how the effects and meaning of the world can emerge fully-formed from its smallest elements: a scarab beetle, a house on fire, the timing of a death, the collisions from which love affairs or catastrophes emerge.

Koestler, an admirer of Jung and author of a book called The Roots of Coincidence (he was also a lover of Simone de Beauvoir), once sponsored a contest asking the public to send him their outrageous coincidences. Letters came in and told of books which opened up to reveal prophetic advice, unfathomable reunions of families or old friends, all kinds of eruptions of the unexpected in everyday life.

Not surprisingly this is where Edgar Allan Poe comes in again.

A man named Nigel Parker wrote in:

In 1838 Edgar Allan Poe published a book "The narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket ". At one point in this novel four men are adrift in a boat and they kill and eat the cabin boy Richard Parker. Some 40 years later four desperate men were adrift in a boat and to survive they killed and ate the cabin boy whose name was Richard Parker.

The man Nigel was related to Richard Parker. This is how the story is told in Charles Fort's Fortean Times. The incident is real and the Poe story is of course well documented.

Charles Fort loved stories like these. Like a metaphysical detective, he kept detailed notes on striking events, hoping that viewed with the proper intuition and imagination they would suddenly arrange themselves into an undeniable order, like a symphony.

This short quote from Fort (from Wild Talents) reveals his passion for these hidden notes:

But always there is present a feeling of unexplained relations of events...

In Hyde Park London, an orator shouts "What we want is no king and no law! How we get it will be, not with ballots, but with bullets!"

Far away in Gloucestershire, a house that dates back to Elizabethean times unaccountably burts into flames.

The Literature of Synchronicity, if there is such a thing, itself has re-ocurring themes. One of them is the house which bursts into flames. I can trace this back to Swedenborg and his sensation that his own house, 300 miles away in Stockholm had just burst into flames. But it might go back farther, like an idea which resurfaces from time to time, caught in the wash and turbulence of history.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

When I started xulsolar, I meant it to be a weblog about strange and beautiful things in Physics and Mathematics, a sort of encyclopedia of observations about the universe we happen to inhabit. The intent is to draw upon my background in Physics and Astrophysics but really distill it down, stripping away the cold equations and just presenting the bare concepts.

I still intend to do this and I'll let this post act as a spur. I just discovered some old notes I had made about some topics I intended to write about and here they are, with more details to follow...

Dirac and his Large Numbers (Done!)
Feynman and the Timeless Universe
Irreducible Complexity: It is evidently true
Least Action Principles: An alternate view of reality
Kaluza-Klein: The symmetry of higher dimensions
Mach's principle and extreme relativity
The Universe as a broken mirror

Sunday, October 10, 2004

I've finally become a paying member of the Harry Stephen Keeler
. Its a group I discovered years ago and have only kept up with
peripherally. The full membership list isnt available but I know that
Neil Gaiman, William Poundstone and Richard Sala are members. From Poundstone:

How did Keeler create such a volume of densely plotted fiction? According to Nevins, Keeler was an avid collector of newspaper clippings of bizarre events. When he started a story, he would grab a handful of clippings at random and try to figure some way of linking them all together. That sounds like something the Dadaists might have talked about doing, and maybe tried once. Who knew that in Chicago Harry Keeler was turning out novel after novel that way?
1. I have been listening to Pink Martini's new album Hang on Little Tomato on repeat. People have been waiting for this album for ten years. You can listen to the entire thing, as well as their first album, on their website (Here's a good photo of the band) China sings songs in Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Croatian, French, and English too. Her voice is as sensuous as ever, evoking the feeling of a dark French cabaret, patrons swirling their drinks and contemplating love affairs that have vanished.

I last saw them live here in San Francisco in 2001. Its the first time I had seen Thomas (the bandleader and pianist) since college. When I knew him, he and I were both going through difficult times, trying to find our way in the world (yes, it was college, but it was more than that)He has a lot of passion and when he sits down in front of a piano, you can hear him release it: light but transcendent, aware of tragedy yet choosing to revel in the joyousness of the moment.

I only saw him briefly backstage. I introduced him to my girlfriend at the time. He and I hugged each other like old friends but had little to say, little that could be formed into words.


2. I was at the bookstore yesterday and since Edgar Allan Poe was on my mind I picked up an old copy of Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination. I also happened to pick up a copy of Paul Auster's New York Trilogy. Later, flipping idly back and forth between the books, I noticed something strangely odd, strangely parallel beteen the two. From the very first page of Auster:

"...Who he was, where he came from, and what he did are of no great importance...we know that he wrote mystery novels. These works were written under the name of William Wilson..."

Now, from the very first line of my Poe book:

"Let me call myself, for the present, William Wilson. The fair page now lying before me need not be sullied with my real appellation."

The former is obviously an allusion to the latter. But this is what happens when allusions are left out there like silky threads for others like myself to stumble into.

Friday, October 08, 2004

My brother and I are out getting some ice cream and I realize this girl in the shop looks strangely familiar. I look at her. She glares at me. I look back. She furrows her brows.

"Excuse me," I say, "but do I know you from somewhere..."
She lets out a small exasperated huff and says "Yeah. Its me, your cousin Valerie!"
As we're leaving my brother scratches his head and says "Yeah, I thought she looked familiar too..."


At last count, I think I have 34 first cousins. But, because of the way in which the family is distributed, there are second-cousins I feel closer to than some first cousins and so my family feels even larger than that. I only have one sibling, my younger brother. When my mother stopped at only two kids, she tells me that relatives wondered aloud if something was wrong, if something was the matter.

Friday, October 01, 2004

If you open up your copy of Goethe's Theory of Colours, you read this:

I am not too proud of my achievements as a poet. Excellent creative writers lived in my time, even more brilliant ones before me, and there will always exist some after my time. But that I am the only one in my century who knows the truth about the theory of colours - that is which I am proud of and which gives me a feeling of superiority over many!

The author of Faust was looking for immortality in his scientific excavations. Goethe's work in this book has small practical value today but the case can be made that it is Art not Science. Goethe practically invented a new way of looking at the world. He wasn't looking at a way to reduce or explain Colour so much as to impose or discover patterns about our own subjective experience.

This old Physics Today article calls it "exploratory experimentation" Goethe drew conections between what was seen and produced a color circle for the senses.

In some sense it reminds me of the stuff that Murray Gell-Mann did preceding the discovery of quarks. He arranged every known particle into a pattern and called it The Eight-fold way (the reference was lifted from Buddhism) But the pattern was broken and so Gell-Mann predicted another particle (the omega) would soon be discovered, and it was.

It reminds me too of the strange cosmology of Edgar Allan Poe. I think of Poe as that teller of creepy tales, The Cask of Amontillado being my own dark favorite. But Poe believed his most important work, the work that would outlast him would be his rambling prose poem, Eureka: An Essay on the Material and Spiritual Universe.

IT is with humility really unassumed — it is with a sentiment even of awe — that I pen the opening sentence of this work; for of all conceivable subjects, I approach the reader with the most solemn, the most comprehensive, the most difficult, the most august.

What terms shall I find sufficiently simple in their sublimity — sufficiently sublime in their simplicity — for the mere enunciation of my theme?

I design to speak of the Physical, Metaphysical and Mathematical — of the Material and Spiritual Universe; of its Essence, its Origin, its Creation, its Present Condition, and its Destiny. I shall be so rash, moreover, as to challenge the conclusions, and thus, in effect, to question the sagacity, of many of the greatest and most justly reverenced of men.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

From Goethe's Theory of Colours
Mitsu writes:

Today: I was zooming around as I often do --- I realized that I love this feeling of speed, fluidity, alacrity --- but it isn't because I like to hurry. To the contrary, I love leisure, taking time with things, lingering. But there are transitions, movements in between, and those I actually do love to make quite quick, not in a need for rushing, but rather just because I feel every moment of life is somehow crucial, and so I can linger just that bit longer both before and after, I move from each slow moment to another with as much lightness as I can muster without actually hurrying, so that I can again take my time there, as long as feels right.

Then again I also notice there are these moments when it is just the right thing, it seems, to stop --- to leave, it feels like the thread of that place and time has been all spooled up and the time to go is now.

-from SyntheticZero

If I can point to one weblog that inspired me to start my own, it would be his (if I could point to two it would be this one, which reminds me that there is so much magic in the world, waiting to be unraveled.) This passage is typical of what I found intriguing about his weblog. He is not so much self-absorbed as he is self-examining.

I too like to linger on moments which are just about to arrive or have just concluded. It is like being a passenger on a train with all the focus on that sudden stop, drawing in the time around it.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Tonight, stopping by Doc's Clock in the Mission, I ran into my friends Victor and Lisa. They are remarkable in that they have this infectious passion for life.

I thought I had lost them as friends when they decided to move to Tennessee a couple years ago. But, as it happens, they returned and brought back with them a richer set of stories to tell.

You see, Victor is the "Salsa King" of San Francisco. At least that is what he was named in a SF Chronicle story of many years ago. He was the young prince of dance, a man that knew how to Salsa dance with moves that went beyond formal steps and maneuvers. He brought passion to the dance, a rough edge both gorgeous and seductive.

But, he retired from dance soon after meeting Lisa. She couldnt get over the fact that his dark swarthiness, his firm control, his perfect moves on the dance floor were also a way in which he met and seduced women. After all, this is how he seduced her.

So, Victor became a butcher, cutting meat instead of dancing. A few years ago they realized that even with his job and her hairdresser salary, they had trouble paying the bills in San Francisco. They decided to move to Tennessee, where Lisa's family is from.

A funny thing happened in Tennesse. They went to a local dance club and were told that the "Salsa King of Tennessee" was due to show up that night. Victor laughed as he told me the story tonight. His "adversary" had moves that were so rigid, Ricardo, he tells me, he was like a scarecrow or a wooden actor in a play - he had no passion, no feeling for the dance.

As Victor and Lisa tell it, they outshone them. They outdanced these pretenders from Nashville. Victor launches into a soliloquoy which I wish I could reproduce here. But he uses the phrases "savage","passion","elegant brutality" to describe a dance which he adores. In some ways, Victor is a bigot - he believes that only Latins can ever truly understand "the dance", this odd thing which is both beautiful and savage.

On the bus ride back from Tennessee, one of the passengers drew a knife and held it at the throat of the bus driver. The hero of the day was Victor. He snuck up on the knife-wielder, with his combined grace and strength, and overpowered him. It was in all the local papers.
(To SK)

If you want a bedtime story as you say, I can probably write one out for you. This may or may not be all true. Most of it is, but thats what stories are about.

When I was a child in Mexico, my family lived near an area full of indian villages. These are the people (and villages) that people imagine when they think of Mexican villagers - the men in white outfits and straw hats, the women in their colorful skirts and bare, dirty feet.

My brother and I (we were maybe 9 and 7) had heard the rumors that the indian villagers were wild and untamed. The women bathed naked in the nearby rivers. The men drank alcohol all day and played and danced to wild music. We wanted to see this for ourselves but our parents only took us to the villages during the day (to buy fruit) and we supposed that what we wanted to see, the true wildness, was hidden to us. We only saw the weary sun-baked vendors waving flies off their papayas and we knew there was so much more.

So, as you might guess, my brother and I struck out on our own one night. It wasnt too late, so our parents assumed we were maybe out catching fireflies or playing the final moments of some soccer game where the twilight has already arrived but you still have to go on.

We got lost several times because we only had moonlight and the dim lights of the villages to guide us. As we approached the village, I remember this clearly we heard this terrible noise, like a loud honking and all sorts of yelping. We still approached because, really, there was nothing else we could have done.

Soon, we were in the streets of the town itself and the noise and rattle seemed to be just around the corner. Otherwise, the streets were deserted. I think the feeling I had was that fear that you feel that everyone else has hidden away from something terrible, but you like a stupid wide-eyed animal did not know that you should be running away and so you just stood there, ready to be pounced on or consumed.

The next thing we saw was this: Out of the corner came 5 or 6 old men on canes. But each one was wearing the same mask, this horrible, monstrous mask that disfigured their features to give them exaggerated noses and chins. Seconds later they were followed by small band of men, several holding xylophones and one, holding a broken tuba which honked like an asthmatic cow. They in turn were followed by a parade of people all moving across the street and disappearing into another, emerging and vanishing like ghosts. Not only did they not come our way, they didnt even look our way.

We had watched a spectacle, my mother later explained, a local festival honoring perhaps a harvest or a moon. I've forgotten her explanations. The memory and thrill of that moment is what stays with me to this day, the glimpse into another world, secret and intractable.

Monday, September 06, 2004

On my to-do list (as amorphous as it is) is to watch the otherwise silent Nosferatu with the dark and beautiful score from Jill Tracy and the Malcontent Orchestra. Or, perhaps even catch it Live this year (It is usually performed around Halloween, right around my birthday)

There are MP3 samples here.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Tango que he visto bailar
contra un ocaso amarillo
por quienes eran capaces
de otro baile, el del cuchillo.
Tango de aquel Maldonado
con menos agua que barro,
tango silbado al pasar
desde el pescante del carro.

Despreocupado y zafado,
siempre mirabas de frente.
Tango que fuiste la dicha
de ser hombre y ser valiente.
Tango que fuiste feliz,
como yo también lo he sido,
según me cuenta el recuerdo;
el recuerdo fue el olvido.

From Alguien le Dice Al Tango
Music: Astor Piazzola
Lyrics: Jorge Luis Borges

Sunday, August 29, 2004

When she turned around, I saw only a small fragment of the tattoo on her back. But I told her that I was guessing she had a tattoo of the Golden Spiral. I was right and she revealed the whole tattoo to me. Best one I have seen in a while.

On the other hand, it was she that led me to Svankmajer's Otik, which I found dissapointing. It was strange but didnt have that inspired infusion of strangeness which made his film of Alice in Wonderland so absorbing and so brilliant. In Alice, the girl traveled through a series of rooms, a wooden labyrinth. The caterpillar was rendered as a sock in a room full of socks which had created holes and tunnels through which they squirmed madly like frantic earthworms.

Still, this sounds promising:

iW: Do you have any new projects that you are working on?

Svankmajer: Yes, I do. I have two projects. I finished writing a new script called "Madness" that combines live action and animation. It is freely based on motifs from the stories by E. A. Poe and from the philosophical works of Marquis de Sade. It will be a kind of philosophical horror film.
I am a regular visitor to Paxton Gate. The inventory resembles that of an ancient wunderkammer. You can buy Venus Flytraps, old faded bottles, taxidermical wonders, handmade scissors, mink penis bones, enormous walking stick insects or anything else you might need as an ingredient in a magic potion.

I have bought iridescent butterflies there as (luminous) gifts. Yesterday I was there looking for a cricket cage. They only had some expensive ones made of bone so I will try my luck at Chinatown. But while conducting some online research about cricket cages I stumbled upon the Cultural Entomology Digest.

Near him two foxes: down the row of grapes
One ranging steals the ripest, one assails
With wiles the poor lad's scrip, to leave him soon
Stranded and supportless. "He plaits meanwhile then
With ears of corn a right fine cricket cage,
and fits it on a rush: for vines, for scrip,
Little he cares, enamored of his toy."

Theokritos (250 BC)

There are indications of a Greek Cricket culture and a fascination with singing insects which were carried around I suppose as a form of acoustic ornament.


Friday was the perfect day to eat outdoors. M. and I grabbed a table at the little-known garden behind the restaurant Blue Plate. The above picture was taken with a cameraphone.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Lermontov's A Hero of our time is one of those small novels I'd like to imagine romantics carried in their pockets. Ragged and dirty from overuse, passages from it were read aloud passionately in halls or coffeeshops. Here is a passage from this short but striking novel of vanity, of love, of the casual cruelties of affection. It is on my shortlist of novels I re-read every few years.

Pechorin, the hero of the title, is either loathed or loved. He seduces women to satisfy his petty vanity and yet is also acutely aware of this. The novel is full of world-weary cynics. Ultimately, at least in my reading, they do discover some path to redemption.

Pechorin, the seducer:

All these days I have not once departed from my systematic plan. The young princess is beginning to enjoy my conversation. I told her some of the strange incidents of my life, and she's beginning to regard me as an unusual person. I mock at everything under the sun, emotions in particular, and this is beginning to frighten her. She doesn't dare to launch upon sentimental debates with Grushnitsky when I'm present, and already on several occasions she's replied to his efforts with an ironical smile. Yet each time Grushnitsky approaches her, I assume a humble air and leave the two alone. The first time I did so she was glad, or tried to look pleased; the second time she lost patience with me, and the third time with Grushnitsky.

Pechorin, the fatalist, before a duel:

"Why so sad, doctor?" I said to him. "Haven't you seen people off to the next world a hundred times with the greatest indifference? Imagine that I have a bilious fever, and that I have equal chances of recovering or succumbing. Both outcomes are in the order of things. Try to regard me as a patient stricken with a disease you have not yet diagnosed--that will stimulate your curiosity to the utmost. You may now make some important physiological observations on me . . . Isn't expectation of death by violence a real illness in itself?"

This thought impressed the doctor and his spirits rose.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Don’t know why
There’s no sun up in the sky
Stormy weather
Since my gal and I ain’t together
Keeps raining all the time
Life is bare
Gloom and misery everywhere
Stormy weather
Just can’t get my poor old self together
I’m weary all the time
Every time
So weary all of the time
When she went away
The blues walked in and then they met me
If she stays away
That old rocking chair’s bound to get me
All I do is pray
The lord above will let me
Just walk in that sun again
Can’t go on
Everything I had is gone
Stormy weather
Since my gal and I ain’t together
Keeps raining all the time
Keeps raining all of the time

It's not that I am unhappy or my life is a storm. Instead, I met up with two friends one of whom was singing this song. The other two of us, it so happens, were surprised because we each, independently, had been singing this song earlier that day. I'm just documenting the synchronicity.
I had never really paid attention to the lyrics before.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

The scent of coffee reminds me of when I was a child and my grandmother, a coffee fiend, would brew a pot for herself as the dawn broke. The smell wafted through the house and was also an invitation to my stomach to appear in the kitchen at once where she usually had a lavish breakfast prepared. It reminds me also of late nights in college when me and my study friends stayed up all night in the House dining hall drinking the local concoction, usually brackish brown. It reminds me too of every coffeehouse I have been in. All these places and images stored away in one scent.

There is an inverse relationship between writing and doing. The more I have to express, the less time I have to express it. Experiences well up like some electric charge.

I see things that happen to me and to others around me and I try to construct a consistent story of what I know and have learned. To explore the world is to undergo a continuous process of revision.

I am always surprised at how much larger the world is than I will let myself believe. Last night, watching a friend perform at a comedy club in the Tenderloin, I was as amazed by the audience as by the performers. Some of the women were dressed like streetwalkers. One comic was soothing his nerves by downing beer after beer in quick succession. His jokes were all about drugs and family dysfunction. One girl near me was obviously high. I felt oddly at home even as I felt like a tourist in a new country.

Friday, June 11, 2004

What I love most about Giuletta Masina in Nights of Cabiria is her instinctiveness. At times she cups her hands to her face and weeps inconsolably. Her body heaves in a fit of expulsion. But all this lasts only a few seconds. She then removes her hands, dries her eyes and immerses herself back in the world as if she had only blown her nose.

At Salsa dance clubs here in the city, you will see young latin men and women dressed to the hilt (well, at least the women) The men hover at the edge of the dance floor like wolves. The women in skirts and heels feign indifference. The ritual is so ancient that it is beautiful.

Yamo Thai is a small place in the Mission with only a small kitchen and bar inside. The entire staff consists of one person - the owner/chef/waiter who considers a visit to this place as a visit to his home. When I walked in he was practicing electric guitar while watching a Bollywood movie. M. arrived later. He put the Bollywood movie on silent (an endless succession of colorful happy dances) and put on some CD's of Miles Davis while he whipped us up some Pad Thai and made me a Yerba Mate.

Monday, June 07, 2004

He awoke, opened his eyes. The room meant very little to him; he was too deeply immersed in the non-being from which he had just come. If he had not the energy to ascertain his position in time and space, he also lacked the desire. He was somewhere, he had come back through vast regions from nowhere; there was the certitude of an infinite sadness at the core of his consciousness, but the sadness was reassuring, because it alone was familiar. He needed no further consolation. In utter comfort, utter relaxation he lay absolutely still for a while, and then sank back into one of the light momentary sleeps that occur after a long, profound one.

Suddenly he opened his eyes again and looked at the watch on his wrist. It was purely a reflex action, for when he saw the time he was only confused. He sat up, gazed around the tawdry room, put his hand to his forehead, and sighing deeply, fell back onto the bed. But now he was awake; in another few seconds he knew where he was, he knew that the time was late afternoon, and that he had been sleeping since lunch. In the next room he could hear his wife stepping about in her mules on the smooth tile floor, and this sound now comforted him, since he had reached another level of consciousness where the mere certitude of being alive was not sufficient.

-Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

-from Flight

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

It's not too early for the Burning Man fundraisers. You can eat spaghetti and watch spaghetti westerns to help benefit the Kooshpeople. You can also help out the Rope Bondage camp by attending their well known Tie Me Up! event.

A friend of mine attended the latter event last year and took the rope bondage class. She recommends the class for just about anyone and was impressed with some of the feats of The Knotty Boys.

I just received a gift of Kaliman comics from Michael. He and I had talked earlier about the mexican comic book series and he surprised me by bringing a few with him tonight when we met for drinks downtown. (I also got some Panic Bear stickers from him. Now I owe him several beers.)

I grew up on Kaliman who was one of the strongest influences on my early imagination. He appeared as a weekly serialized comic book which ran for years. My aunt Esperanza was a huge fan and as a girl read and collected as many as she could get her hands on. As a child I wondered about this huge stash in her room and she lost no time in passing on to me her obsession.

Kaliman is a mysterious man with profound physical and mental powers. He seems to inhabit a supernatural world. His enemies were culled from every mythological source imaginable. He fought against demons and witches, giants and hydras, voodoo doctors and sorcerers. His own powers seemed to be drawn from Eastern sources; In many ways, he was a Yogi with well developed physical and psychic abilities. (In the image above he is anointed as the seventh son of the goddess Kali)

For me, Kaliman was a man struggling in an ever-changing landscape of nightmares. In one episode I remember well, Kaliman is fighting a sorcerer who can conjure up visions so real that it is easy to believe in them and believing them, of course, is what will kill you. The trick then is to remind yourself that this is merely a vision without substance. For Kaliman, the dream-walker, this is no great feat. But he fears for his companion (or his rescued damsel) who, lacking Kaliman's mental control, will likely be destroyed by mere constructs of their imagination.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

What do I remember from this day? I remember the sound of the painters, diligent alien men, covering up the stains and the cracks that our hoarse shouts had created.

I remember your beautiful crazy eyes, your indecipherable expression.

I remember studying your voice, your controlled whispers. I recall feeling suddenly both warm and cold like when you plunge naked into a hot bath on an icy day, moving your body through air that chills your skin as you compress yourself in anticipation.

Bruegel the Elder, The Battle about Money

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Running in Church

Then, you were a hot-thinking, thin-lidded tinderbox,
Losing your balance meant nothing at all. You would
pour through the aisles in the highest cathedrals,
careening deftly as patriarchs brooded.

You made the long corridors ring, tintinnabular
echoes exploring the pounded cold floor,
forcing the walls to the truth of your progress:
there was a person in this church's core.

Past thick stained-glass colors wafted and swirling
in pooled interludes that swung down from the rafters,
cinnabar wounds threw light on your face, where the
pliant young bones were dissolving in laughter.

-from Eve (1997) by Annie Finch
via a private poetry mailing list I am on.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

This afternoon I was following around the drummers from Loco Bloco as they strolled through the Mission. The destination was 23rd St. where a neighborhood celebration of Cinco de Mayo was in full swing. These are also the days leading up to San Francisco's Carnaval.

Carnaval here is a full parade surrounded by a loose set of smaller celebrations around the city. It still is the form of a spectacle instead of the immersive sense of Carnival. The latter is not just for spectators but is instead a suspended time in which the participants become actors and the rules of social order are disfigured or suspended. Burning Man may be one of Carnivals truer modern descendants.

The grand theorist of the Carnivalesque is Mikhail Bakhtin. In Rabelais and his world he develops the fullest conception of the carnivalesque, the beautiful and the grotesque:

"In fact, carnival does not know footlights, in the sense that it does not acknowledge any distinction between actors and spectators.... Carnival is not a spectacle seen by the people; they live in it, and everyone participates because its very idea embraces all the people. While carnival lasts, there is no other life outside it. During carnival time life is subject only to its laws, that is, the laws of its own freedom. It has a universal spirit; it is a special condition of the entire world, of the world's revival and renewal, in which all take part. Such is the essence of carnival, vividly felt by all its participants.... The tradition of the Saturnalias remained unbroken and alive in the medieval carnival, which expressed this universal renewal"

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Friday, April 30, 2004

I hunger for your mouth, your voice, your hair
and I prowl the streets, starving and silent,
bread does not nourish me, the dawn upsets me,
I hunt for the liquid sound of your feet all day.

I am hungry for your sleek laugh,
for your hands the color of a savage harvest,
I hunger for the pale stone of your nails,
I want to eat your skin like a whole almond.

I want to eat the burnt sunbeams of your beauty,
the stately nose of your arrogant face,
I want to eat the fleeting shadow of your lashes

and hungering, I come and go, sniffing the dusk
looking for you, for your hot heart
like a puma in the solitude of Quitratue.

As a followup to an earlier post, I discovered this new web translation of Neruda's 100 Love Sonnets. I too had noticed the rough phrase "Rough Warehouses that growled: get lost." The question is whether it is apt or it is impertinent. This is a peek at the subtleties of the art of translation.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Underground San Francisco part 8: A woman in the Mission district projects 16mm films out of her window and onto a nearby wall. People stop and watch. Apparently the films were all silent but now she uses a baby monitor which she drops into the street so that people can hear. Its called The Electric Mural Project.

There is no formal calendar but tomorrow night (Friday) at 8pm they are showing old spanish educational films including Airplane trip to Mexico(1952) and La Cuidad de Mexico(1960).

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

My friend Anna has been doing some amazing things in the Renewable Energy space. She just organized this Kerry fundraiser here in San Francisco which I am posting here. Email me if you want more info. Its a minimum of $100 a person:


I am emailing to invite you to a CleanTech fundraiser for John Kerry on
April 28th. Hosted at the Fairmont in conjunction with the CleanTech
Venture Forum, its a great opportunity to come meet some wonderful Bay Area
investors, entrepreneurs, and technologists in the renewable energy and
clean technology space AND help John Kerry win back the White House!

Hosted by Andrew Beebe, CEO - Energy Innovations, Greg Gretsch, Managing
Director - Sigma Partners, Randall Hayes, Rainforest Action, Peter Liu,
Principal - LM Investment, Thomas Layton, Eric Macris, Sunil Paul, Founder
of Brightmail and Angel Investor, Barney Pell, Martin Roscheisen, CEO - Nano
Solar, Joel Serface, Venture Manager - Eastman Ventures, Sanjay Wagle,
Principal - Expansion Capital Partners, and me!

More details to follow.

Best regards and many thanks,


Thursday, April 15, 2004

"Take a twenty-four hour trip through the mind of Beethoven. Join us for a once-in-a-lifetime all-night pajamas-please sleep-over concert-event at 964 Natoma."

Friday, April 09, 2004

Did the ancients think that the stars were campfires burning in the sky?

Lately it is as if i were traversing a large dark field speckled with campfires. Each fire holds a small group of people who invite me to drink hot tea, to warm my body and listen to their stories. I introduce myself and listen closely. This metaphor has strength for me.

I remember walking on dark beaches in San Diego, beaches illuminated only by a string of campfires. Walking by the cold tides, our bare feet bouncing on the wet sand, we would walk from one to the next. As we approached each one, what seemed like dark stirrings took on a human face. A small band of people would emerge, mumblings became words, became conversations and each fire became an island. As we walked away, the warm chatter would again get washed out by the sounds of the ocean and we'd be again stumbling in the darkness, guiding ourselves by the light of the approaching flames.

The path is dark and uncertain and so it is natural that we create communities to huddle with, to exchange dreams.

The other day I lay in Dolores park with M. and her roommate, our bellies exposed to the sun. The day was warm and so we were surrounded by couples and groups on their blankets. I shared stories of things I had recently heard and seen. M. laughed as we agreed that you do not need to visit foreign cities to get a taste of the culturally strange.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

From there, after six days and seven nights, you arrive at Zobeide, the white city, well exposed to the moon, with streets wound about themselves as in a skein. They tell this tale of its foundation: men of various nations had an identical dream. They saw a woman running at night through an unknown city; she was seen from behind, with long hair, and she was naked. They dreamed of pursuing her. As they twisted and turned, each of them lost her. After the dream, they set out in search of that city; they never found it, but they found one another; they decided to build a city like the one in the dream. In laying out the streets, each followed the course of his pursuit; at the spot where they had lost the fugitive's trail, they arranged spaces and walls differently from the dream, so she would be unable to escape again.

This was the city of Zobeide, where they settled, waiting for that scene to be repeated one night. None of them, asleep or awake, ever saw the woman again. The city's streets were streets where they went to work every day, with no link any more to the dreamed chase. Which, for that matter, had long been forgotten.

New men arrived from other lands, having had a dream like theirs, and in the city of Zobeide, they recognized something from the streets of the dream, and they changed the positions of arcades and stairways to resemble more closely the path of the pursued woman and so, at the spot where she had vanished, there would remain no avenue of escape.

The first to arrive could not understand what drew these people to Zobeide, this ugly city, this trap.

Cities and Desires (Calvino)

Maps from Tangential University via invertebra

I was trying to describe to someone the level of graffiti I saw when I was in East Berlin. I looked around and stumbled upon this great site Urban Haute Couture which collects photos of street art from Berlin and Amsterdam and Hamburg. Their Bucharest section also includes stencils which can be found at the Romanian Stencil Archive.
Two literary puzzles I haven't been able to solve:

1. In Nabokov's "Speak, Memory" he writes "We subjected [Uncle Ruka] to a test one day, and in a twinkle he turned the sequence '5.13 24.11 13.16 9.13.5 5.13 24.11' into the opening words of a famous monologue in Shakespeare." The monologue is 'To be or not to be' from Hamlet but the question is whether this was an arbitrary substitution cipher.

Oddly, the first few letters follow the pattern of a rotational cypher where the next letter is x fixed places from the previous (e.g. O(13)=T-5. B(24)=O+13.) but that pattern collapses quickly. It may just be random but I cant get it out of my mind.

2. Borges, in his short-story The Rose of Paracelsus introduces the name Johannes Grisebach out of nowhere! Who is Grisebach? There was an Eduard Grisebach, a poet and the editor of the works of Schopenhauer who was known to Borges.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

I liked so much the way she would suddenly sit down on a wall, or a broken pillar in that shattered backyard to Pompey's pillar, and be plunged in an inextinguishable sorrow at some idea whose impact had only just made itself felt in her mind.

"You really believe so?" she would say with such sorrow that one was touched and amused at the same time. "And why do you smile? You always smile at the most serious things. Ah! surely you should be sad?" If she ever knew me at all she must later have discovered that for those of us who feel deeply and who are at all conscious of the inextricable tangle of human thought there is only one response to be made - ironic tenderness and silence.

In a night so brilliant with stars where the glow-worms in the shrill dry grass gave back their ghostly mauve lambence to the sky there was nothing else to do but sit by her side, stroking that dark head of beautiful hair and saying nothing.

Underneath, like a dark river, the noble quotation which Balthazar had taken as text and which he read in a voice which trembled with emotion and partly with the fatigue of so much abstract thought: "The day of the corpora is the night for the spiritus. When the bodies cease their labour the spirits in man begin their work. The waking of the body is the sleep of the spirit and the spirit's sleep a waking for the body"

-From Durrell's Justine

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

I like the energy that Florian captures in his photos. Flo is a friend of Mina's who stayed with her last week.

The week before that was Mina's 29th Birthday!! Happy belated birthday Mina. You only seem to grow younger like you've built your own secret time machine.

What I like about Mina's own photographs are their sense of assurance. She has an accomplished eye. I don't know why I like these two harbor pictures so much, but I do.

On the subject of birthdays, my friend Paul is celebrating his birthday this week in Paris. By some strange conjunction of events, the kind of stuff usually associated with planetary alignments, it looks like I might be in Paris in a few days to join him. This is good. I'd like to finally meet his friend Jenn (below with paul), who was a news anchor for Hong Kong TV, as well as Paul's sister Elizabeth, who is in the world of Paris couture, and whom I have always admired from afar.

Monday, March 08, 2004

The Latin Jungle
La Selva Latinoamericana

In Venezuela it was the writer Romulo Gallegos who in 1929 penned perhaps one of the first indigenous novels, Dona Barbara. Here, the natural world arises as a powerful protagonist. The Latin American novel seems to first take form as a drama in which the European man is soaked in the wild, savage psychology of the native world.

A better novel still is Gallegos' Canaima in which the landscape itself defines the course of the novel. Canaima is about one man's futile struggle against the forces of nature, and by implication - destiny. I wanted to quote from Canaima but after looking around for days, even through old boxes of books, I am giving up. The climactic chapter has the protagonist caught in the jungle far from home as a violent storm approaches. He decides to tear his clothes off to confront the storm head on, hugs the largest nearby tree and confronts the elements - wind, rain, lightning, earth - one by one as a series of heroic trials.

Miguel Angel Asturias Men of Maize, however, was the first to combine the European form with the magical, dream-like narratives of native folktales to create what is known today as 'magical realism' (Asturias even won the Nobel prize and yet is still fairly unknown) Men of Maize is so deeply imbedded in Native culture it is an adaptation of the Maya's Popol Vuh. It is difficult to read if you do not know what it references. But it is beautiful, hallucinatory writing with the rhythm and unexpectedness of a large prose poem. A sample:

The word of the earth turned to flame by the sun almost set fire to the maize-leaf ears of the yellow rabbits...but Gaspar was once again becoming earth that falls from where the earth falls, which is to say, sleep that finds no shade in which to dream in the soil of Ilom, and the solar flame of the voice could do nothing, tricked by the yellow rabbits that set to suckling in a papaya grove, turned into forest papayas, that planted themselves in the sky, turned to stars, and faded into the water like reflections with ears.

Asturias' contemporary is the much more readable Alejo Carpentier. His book The Lost Steps is in many ways a very modern piece of fiction which reads like an adventure story. An ethno-musicologist from New York City flees into the jungle in search of ancient music. But the jungle, of course, not only transforms him but also twists the storyline, imposing its own ancient sense of time and narrative as the protagonist wanders farther and farther away from his modern reality. The Lost steps is one of those books which I at first read quickly, only to realize later how much I had missed.

The last pearl in this string is Alvaro Mutis' The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll. Garcia Marquez admires Mutis fiercely. Mutis is Joseph Conrad mixed with Garcia Marquez yet, like any original writer, comparisons are unfair. Maqroll is the individual, the thinking man who, forged from the jungle, can now embody it and make it his own. Maqroll is a fearless voyager, a philosopher with odd observations and aphorisms, an observer unbound by his environment. He has no home but the world is his home. Mutis' writing is so immediate, so real, that I want to re-read it even as I am reading it.

A caravan doesnt symbolize or represent anything. Our mistake is to think that its going somewhere, leaving somewhere. The caravan exhausts its meaning by merely moving from place to place. The animals in the caravan know this, but the camel drivers don't. It will always be this way.


A woman's body under the rush of a mountain waterfall, her brief cries of surprise and joy, the movement of her limbs in the rapid foam that carries red coffee berries, sugarcane pulp, insects struggling to escape the current: this is the exemplary happiness that surely never comes again.

Both from Mutis' The Snow of the Admiral

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Simultaneously, moments in life are disconnnected episodes and also part of a larger narrative. In the first case, moments of peace and sleep are dividers which separate self-contained events, oases of experience which are presented to us much as a cinematic moment. In the latter case, experience is an elaborate but not incongruos story which unwinds erratically, as if told by a stuttering and distracted storyteller.

We all have the hands of a sculptor. Events unfold that have that sense of both accident and providence, like a meteoric collision. We catch them and shape them into something we can understand, coloring them with our own private set of pigments.

This morning the sun was too bright and so I squinted like a beast who had emerged from a cave, holding my black coffee with both hands as if it were a precious stone.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

This will be a reminder to myself to attend the Isabel Samaras shows later this month here in San Francisco. The pop-culture-meets-Art thing is difficult to pull off well.

My friend Thomas in college believed strongly in the circular theory of Aesthetics. That is, if something is terrible it has the potential to be magnificently terrible. Anybody can create art that is uninspired but to able to create something truly monstrous takes talent and inspiration. And so the truly bad is also the truly great.

He used to search for music and art that was so bad it was sublime. He'd play old homegrown records he dug up in garage sales, home-recorded stuff say of someone singing in the high-pitched voice of a child, strange symphonies that sounded like a huge catfight, all in search of that magnificently terrible.

I still think of Thomas when I see a lot of pop art these days. I like the work of Samaras because she doesn't take herself too seriously. She can unite Botticelli's Venus and Gilligan's Island in a way that is both funny and new. She's also done a lot of illustrations and the one above is one she did for Bitch magazine.

A while back I posted about the New Yorker covers done by Eric Drooker. The cover above is another one by him titled X-Ray Manhattan. That cover and many others will be showing here in San Francisco starting this week. There's a special opening for the show this Thursday which I have an invitation for and I'd like to attend but I probably won't be able to.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

If any of the files on the playlist have ever intrigued you, now is the time to pull them down. That server will be disappearing in a few days and it is doubtful that I will rebuild it somewhere else.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

The cat Dinofelis, known as a false saber-tooth, was a specialized hunter of hominids. It seems to have enjoyed eating baboons and most likely, early humans.

The paleontologist C.K. Brain, in his book Hunter or the Hunted?, suggests that early man was more often prey than predators. Our move to predator status was a modern thing. We constructed fire and weapons and reversed an old power structure.

The writer Bruce Chatwin, a fascinating figure of his own, was drawn to Brain's theories. For Chatwin, Brain had discovered the ultimate fabled beast that lurks in our imaginations. Nicholas Shakespeare, in his biography of Chatwin, writes:

For two days Bruce engaged Brain in conversations which he described as "the most stimulating discussions in my life"... If the leopard-like cat had preyed on our ancestors, then man in his origins was not necessarily aggressive. He lived his life in fear, dinofelis watching him from the shadows.

Bruce--who called the cat "the Prince of Darkness"--amused the older man. Brain says, "He understood 'the Prince of Darkness' as a psychological necessity. He thought we had lived so long with prowling nocturnal predators they had become part of our make-up. When we no longer had these animals in bodily form, we invented dragons and heroes who went off to fight them." Discussing, for instance, Uccello's painting of St. George in the act of lancing the dragon, Bruce seemed to think this was an illustration of what had actually happened.

Brain had misgivings about this nostalgia for "the Beast we have lost". Nevertheless, it excited him to watch Bruce take his work and run with it. "Chatwin was like a nineteenth-century synthesiser," says Brain. "There is a place again for that kind of generalist, someone who can wander among specialised fields and pull things together. Otherwise it's very compartmentalised and syntheses don't really occur." The two men talked late into the night and on the following day they drove to the cave at Swartkrans.

Swartkrans is where Brain discovered the earliest use of fire by man. It is thus, in Brain's account, the epic place where the battle was turned.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

The Mayan calendar is based on the idea of cycles and cycles within cycles. This is not too different than either the Ptolemaic system or even the modern view of a moon that revolves around a planet that revolves around a Sun that in turn revolves around the center of a galaxy.

At some point though we discard the notion of cycles when it comes to human progress. Although we like to play with ideas of a post-nuclear world where civilization must rebuild itself, the prevailing view is that progress is linear, that life and civilization will expand and grow until it dominates not only other solar systems but also the entire universe.

This attitude is embodied in such theories as Frank Tipler's idea of an Omega point or among the futuristic theories of Nick Bostrom and his fellow transhumanists. The essential idea is that the future is limitless and that scientific progress, now that it has fully developed its young wings and survived the peril of being quashed by other dogmas, is poised for flight.

Once you accept the idea that we will continue to grow and develop until we are well past the point of being superhuman you can make all sorts of deductions. Tipler's Omega point theory relies on the idea that we will be able to control the universe and harness its seemingly limitless computing power. What will we do with all this power? Why we will of course use it to reconstruct simulations of our own past! Including, of course, this past, the world we live in now, inhabited by you and me and all of our loved ones and even our not so-loved ones. Also, hopefully, our pets. This is our immortality. We will be brought back to life, reconstituted by our super-powerful descendants, like a can of dried milk.

As outrageous as that may seem, Bostrom goes even further. He argues essentially that our descendants will not just construct one simulation, but countless numbers of them. After all, they live in an infinite future, harnessing the power of universes. Why shouldn't they build not just one Napoleonic War but also re-run it endlessly, as we re-run films, creating us in each viewing.

The outrageous and inevitable conclusion is this: If there are so many simulations and only one authentic version, well, what really are the chances that we are that authentic version? Bostrom argues that it is much more likely that we are a copy, that we are a mere simulation, and so he urges us to accept that.

The Mayans, as I was saying earlier, held, in contrast, that it is cycles all the way up. The universe will end. We will end. Everything will begin again. This may even happen as soon as 2012.

At this point it is not clear to me which view of the world makes more sense.
I am ashamed to admit I was at the launch party on friday night at Suite 181. Hey! the alcohol was free and suite 181 is a very cool space but the night was indeed Revenge of the Nerds.
Case in point: Even though the drinks were free, I tipped the bartenders with each drink. Nobody else was doing this. These were, after all, the regular bartenders.
I also came out of it with several Orkut pens which glow in three different colors. Ebay material.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

An early interest in Eastern spirituality and Zen mysticism in particular led me to read the books of Janwillem Van de Wetering. His book, The Empty Mirror, describes the experiences of a Westerner (a dutchman) studying at a Japanese Zen monastery.

I didnt realize until recently that Van de Wetering was now a popular and well-known mystery writer. I am currently reading through all his books. There is without a doubt an aura of religious detachment, of serenity, that permeates these novels and makes them also incredibly absorbing and readable. Here, for example, is an exchange from two detectives from the book, The Perfidious Parrot:

"No, seriously, sir. Even if the Amabagts arranged for that bunk inspector to drive into our dinner, the crime would not affect our project. Why bother with Quadrant? The goal recedes while we lose our way."

"You can't lose a way you're on," the commisaris said. "Besides the road is the goal. Make that call will you?"

Friday, January 30, 2004

MiniBosses is a cover band that covers themes from Super Nintendo (SNES) games. At first I thought this was some kind of post-ironic thing but the bandmembers seem fun and dedicated to their videogames. A lot of kids grew up on this music. I am not so familiar with many of the tunes but I am a fan of the often strange mix of the cartoony and the operatic. Here's some strange, sometimes beautiful rock instrumentals from MiniBosses:

Kraid Metroid
MegaMan 2
Ghosts 'n Goblins
Wizards and Warriors

Talking about post-ironic I had a strange Frank Chu sighting. It wasn't his sign about the Zegatronic Rocket Society or the latest news about the 12 Galaxies that was strange. I'm used to that, as is anyone who has been through San Francisco's Financial District.

This time though he was at 111 Minna, a nightclub here in San Francisco. Some friends and I were there this past wednesday because DJ Spesh was doing his first all-night set. Anyways, Frank Chu was there along with his sign, standing back a little from the crowd.

Now, Frank Chu has become a lovable figure here in the city. He is always there with his indecipherable signs walking determinedly up and down the street. I'm a little distressed though that he is now hanging out at nightclubs (though I suspect someone coaxed him in) since it polishes away some of his outsider status.

Its always disappointing to see the quirky and authentic dissolve as a crowd of people grasp at it, not unlike how old monuments vanish piece by piece inside the pockets of tourists.

(still, frank chu may not be so easily captured. He seems to show up at the strangest places (warning: nudity))

Monday, January 26, 2004

Wow, what happened to january? I never meant to ignore this little pet project of mine.

This month has been drab and sunless here in san francisco. There's something vacant in the air, like someone has just left. An absence.

As I was falling asleep a couple nights ago I thought I heard a door open and close, as if someone had walked into the house. I thought about checking but I was already drifting into dreams and it is not uncommon to hear stray noises from the street. A. had just left the day before and so I was alone in the house.

Later that night, my sleep was disturbed when I felt something like a human hand brushing my forehead. The room, I remember, was unusually warm and I was sweating. I opened my eyes and turned my body to look around. When I looked up I saw someone standing next to my bed. It was still dark and I couldnt make out much more than a silhouette. The figure had come in through my bedroom door which was half-open and I could see that the hallway light seemed to be on.

My first instinct was not fear but more like anger. I was angry at myself that I had let this happen. I yelled out 'Get out of here! Get out!' but my screams were half-choked. I felt as if I were gargling rather than screaming. I don't know whether I was dreaming or I had just fallen back into a dream. The room seemed real enough except for the presence of this figure who was now dissapearing. I fell back into sleep.

When I woke up a little later, I looked around and noticed only that my bedside clock had been turned upside-down. Did I do that myself in the middle of the night? My bedroom door was closed. I got out of bed and went around the house checking that all the doors were locked. They were.

It was still dark out. I stayed up in the kitchen until I saw daylight. Only then did I go back to bed to get some more sleep.