Tuesday, September 27, 2005


A few weeks ago I received a print of "Corazon" one of Teresa Villegas pieces, each a new interpretation of the icons in the Mexican game of chance - the Loteria.

I associate La Loteria with small Mexican traveling circuses which went from village to village. The circus was accompanied by a Fair - small amusement rides, vendors of strange little crafts and toys, and games of chance. The Loteria tent was always the largest, with some barker on the stage, lit up by floor lights, shouting out the names of the symbols - "El Valiente!" (The brave man!) or "La Muerte!" (Death)

The traditional cards can be seen here.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Mythology to Metaphysics Reading Roberto Calasso'...

Mythology to Metaphysics

Reading Roberto Calasso's books: Ka and The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony. The former a retelling of Indian mythology. The latter, a retelling of the Greek myths. Also, re-exploring De Chirico who has always been close to my heart:

"Prajapati lay with his eyes closed. Between head and breast an ardor burned within him, like water seething in silence. It was constantly transforming something: it was tapas. But what was it transforming? The mind. The mind was what transformed and what was transformed. It was the warmth, the hidden flame behind the bones, the succession and dissolution of shapes sketched on darkness - and the sensation of knowing that that was happening. Everything resembled something else. Everything was connected to something else. Only the sensation of consciousness resembled nothing at all."

-Roberto Calasso, Ka

"Abandoned in Naxos, Ariadne was shot by Artemis’s arrow; Dionysus ordered the killing and stood watching, motion-less. Or: Ariadne hung herself in Naxos, after being left by Theseus. Or: pregnant by Theseus and shipwrecked in Cyprus, she died there in child birth. Or: Dionysus came to Ariadne in Naxos, together with his band of followers ; they celebrated a divine marriage, after which she rose into the sky, where we still see her today amid the northern constellations. Or: Dionysus came to Ariadne in Naxos, after which she followed him around on his adventures, sharing his bed and fighting with his soldiers; when Dionysus attacked Perseus in the country near Argos, Ariadne went with him, armed to fight amid the ranks of the crazed Bacchants, until Perseus shook the deadly face of Medusa in front of her and Ariadne was turned to stone...No other woman, or goddess, had so many deaths as Ariadne."

-Roberto Calasso, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

Ariadne inspired De Chirico. In his solitary landscapes, she is the reclining woman, the grief-stricken woman, the incarnation of nostalgia. The woman of many deaths: Giorgio De Chirico and the Myth of Ariadne

And finally a quote from a book written by Giorgio De Chirico:

"Hebdomeros concluded from this that perhaps they had not really understood what he meant, and he reflected on the difficulty of making oneself understood when one’s thoughts reached a certain height or depth. "It’s strange," Hebdomeros was thinking, "as for me, the very idea that something had escaped my understanding would keep me awake at nights, whereas people in general are not in the least perturbed when they see or read or hear things they find completely obscure."
- from Hebdomeros by Giorgio de Chirico

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Traveling Spider Maman in Spain, Canada, ...

The Traveling Spider

Maman in Spain, Canada, Tokyo and London.

Over the past few years, I've been watching Maman the spider travel the world. She is the creation of the sculptor Louise Bourgeois. I saw Maman in person when she visited the Tate in London and arched gracefully over all the visitors to the museum. She is named Maman because she is carrying eggs, as seen clearly here. There has been no information on when her children will be born.
Dictionary of The Inexpressible (part I)

In The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Milan Kundera devotes an entire chapter to the expression or idea of litost. Succinctly, litost can be defined as "a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery" But it is more than that, as Kundera goes on to explain. It is also a fallen state, a tumble after a realization. That is, he explains, the fallen are to some degree immune from litost:

"Anyone with wide experience of the common imperfection of mankind is relatively sheltered from the shocks of litost. For him, the sight of his own misery is ordinary and uninteresting. Litost, therefore, is characteristic of the age of inexperience. It is one of the ornaments of youth."

Like Kundera for the Czech, the poet Garcia Lorca famously went on about the Spanish concept of "Duende" in his essay The Duende: Theory and Divertissement writes:

"... people constantly speak of the duende and find it in everything that springs out of energetic instinct. That marvelous singer, "El Librijano," originator of the Debla, observed, "Whenever I am singing with duende, no one can come up to me"; and one day the old gypsy dancer, "La Malena," exclaimed while listening to Brailowski play a fragment of Bach: "Olé! That has duende !"- and remained bored by Gluck and Brahms and Darius Milhaud. And Manuel Torres, to my mind a man of exemplary blood culture, once uttered this splendid phrase while listening to Falla himself play his "Nocturno del Generalife": "Whatever has black sounds has duende." There is no greater truth."

This idea of the duende has been characterized succinctly too as that spirit of the sublime in art - but that darker aspect of the sublime, a baritone depth, a minor key rather than a major key. The duende lies near the realm of the fantastic and is so palpable and complex as to have a sense of physical embodiment. The Duende arrives, like a medieval spirit or like a Greek muse:

"The arrival of the Duende always presupposes a radical change in all the forms as they existed on the old plane. It gives a sense of refreshment unknown until then, together with that quality of the just-opening rose, of the miraculous, which comes and instils an almost religious transport."

It is in the nature of Arts to strive towards the duende, at least in Garcia Lorca's view.

Finally, there is that Portuguese state of mind known as Saudade. The article on Saudade from Wikipedia does a fine job and makes the following reference:

In his book In Portugal of 1912, A.F.G Bell writes: "The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness."

Saudade seems to sit at the intersection of solitude and longing. But perhaps more of a passive sense of dislocation: Of being "here" instead of "there" I will say no more about Saudade since I am still learning what it means.
Dictionary of the Inexpressible (part II)

I've tried to add my own unclassifiable states to the previous list. This is an attempt to begin a classification of states that defy words.

We experience claustrophobia and this can be mapped to, say, being trapped in a tight tunnel or wooden box. But we also fear being trapped by circumstance, by our inabilities or by our fears themselves. Sometimes the feelings are so indefinable that we can only hint at them and hope that the person we speak to has felt the same. Conversely, we all have had those moments of liberation, of flight, where the world seems open and limitless. But, are you feeling the same as me. Or, to use the analogy of color: Do you see the same lime-green as I do when I say "lime-green" or do you see magenta?

Nostalgia of the Infinite
So-named for a favorite De Chirico painting. (The first use I found for a color copier was to take a postcard of this painting and then post the copies on walls, doors and telephone poles)
There is a sense, akin to a claustrophobia but not quite, of being trapped in this particular moment as this particular person. The moment is suffocating because there is no alternative to it and one can feel Time as one feels a rough wind, shoving leaves down a hill. Combine this with a distant memory, or sense, of being somehow larger than circumstance, of being able to fly against Fate, to ascend out of this moment, not unlike a liberating dream.

Amnesia of Identity
This happens usually upon waking. The world has fallen away. At first it is like that feeling you have when you have dived into a large pool and have lost your sense of gravity. The world which consists of yourself, your place, the people who inhabit it arrives in layers or in waves, or like sheets of rain, or like clothes pulled around your body, dry and weighty, after surfacing from a chilly swim.
Identity arrives first (who am I? who else is here?) followed by time and space and then artifacts of the world, filled in roughly at first, still half-dissolved, like a painting with faded colors.

Dislocation;"Homesick for another state of being"
The English word "homesick" is an inelegant word. It describes one of a variety of feelings that occur when one has been too abruptly snatched from one state to another. But it is the closest word in English to what I am trying to describe: a homesickness which is more of a nostalgic yearning, a longing that can be felt with the entire body. It is the feeling of being displaced or dislocated but not lost. The Portuguese word "Saudade" also comes close.

The Potential Moment
Something is about to happen. You can feel it in your chest, taste it on your tongue (its a metallic taste). Writers will often use the phrase "the moment was charged with potential" and I believe they are trying to describe or unravel this same emotion. Anything might happen now. Events are happening too fast to either comprehend or control. It is a momentary dizziness. It is standing on a precipice where you do not know if you will fall or you will fly.
But, it is more than just a feeling of possibility. It is also the feeling that the decisions you make now will be far-reaching and continue to manifest themselves in your future. These are the transitions in an episodic existence.
These moments have almost a religious significance and so I can see some similarity to the Bardos of Tibetan Buddhism - those junctures in life where possibility is at its peak.
(Also discovered that Jung, that explorer of inner worlds was himself profoundly affected by the notion of these Bardos)

Feeling of The Unseen
Let us say you walk through an empty room at a party or function where there are others about - one which you have walked through only a few minutes ago. But, since you were there last you notice some small detail has changed. Perhaps a pillow has been moved - or a cup of coffee now sits on the table. But, you see nobody there.
This is akin to that "feeling of being watched" in that a "presence" is nearby but cannot be seen and that affects all perceptions. It can also be the feeling that there is an unseen mechanism, of people and things, which move the world forward. It can also be noticing that someone has closed the door, or the door has closed itself, when there is a cold wind blowing outside. .
Dictionary of the Inexpressible (part III)

Curiously, the notion of the unnameable has its attractions. Drawn by the beauty of words such as duende and saudade, new, forged words have appeared. One such word is "Razbliuto" which is supposed to be "the feeling a person has for someone he or she once loved but now does not."
But, languagehat does away with that one handily.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Night Sky as a Performance

Photo by eddy/aqui-ali. This was at an underground party in San Francisco last night. You call a secret phone number and are told the location. A DJ is there as is a bus serving drinks. I sat in that chair on the right. The moon was full and the sky had a cinematic clarity.

Only what is interior has proved to have substance and a determining value

"Fate will have it - and this has always been the case with me - that all the 'outer' aspects of my life should be accidental. Only what is interior has proved to have substance and a determining value. As a result, all memory of outer events has faded, and perhaps these 'outer' experiences were never so very essential anyhow, or were so only in that they coincided with phases of my inner development."

-Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections; Introduction (1961)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Love poem (ten minutes after the end of gravity)

-Adam Cvijanovic's Love Poem (ten minutes after the end of gravity)
The city of Los Angeles, ten minutes after gravity has failed, with floating lawns, beds and kitchen utensils.

Friday, September 16, 2005

I try to evoke...

When I go to see art, I always read the artist statements. Typically, the artists stated intentions bear no relation to the actual effect of the art. That is, I am of a mind, that an artists statements can be disregarded. Once their creation has been released to the world, it no longer belongs to them.

For fun, a quick Google of artist+"try to evoke":

I try to evoke the process of self–organization and emergent behavior
I try to evoke some type of emotion in the viewer by the way that I paint the nude
I also try to evoke childhood memories, sometimes weird
I try to evoke an excitement and passion while capturing the fleeting effects of light
We try to evoke elements of the style of objects installed in a room
I try to evoke what Zen practitioners call nothing and everything
A sense of uneasiness and fear is what I try to evoke in my viewer
I try to evoke bodily systems and fluids in a way that allows the objects to seem like mutilated matter
I try to evoke the feeling of images beginning or passing away in ephemeral change, and full of mystery to be discovered

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Temporal and spatial distribution of high energy electrons at Jupiter

Temporal and spatial distribution of high energy electrons at Jupiter

I have seen this man before. One friend of mine referred to him as "The Pigeon Man" because of his habit of holding injured pigeons in his arms, tenderly, cradling them like a treasured pet and feeding them, dropping breadcrumbs into their beaks.

He is here now at Cafe La Onda carrying a sheaf of paper. He is distributing leaflets to everyone here. Most people wave him away but I know that his leaflets contain secret messages.

Each leaflet is a xeroxed copy of something he typed up on an old typewriter. It has that beautiful rough look - the irregular type, the randomly bolded letters where the ribbon carried extra ink or the key and lever was hit hard in exclamation.

This particular piece of writing is a random diatribe. The usual suspects are here - "Galactic Stranger","the Businessman's Messiah", medicine, taxes, "the rich and powerful" In this piece, the author, who calls himself JM Ratliff is apparently proposing a scheme of government reform but there are also fragments which I would not hesitate to call prose poetry, cosmic reflections, peeks behind the veil:

"The soul is you in the nite-dream standing thinking seeing feeling & flying, with feet, hands & eyes & wearing memory clothes. Once you are dead it won't matter to you if you lived short or long or at all so why preserve the crims or the basket cases. All things die--birds, trees...If it is to the Something we go, we mite wish we had got there younger."

After he departs, I decide to type his supposed name into Google. The only JM Ratliff I can find is a co-author of a scientific paper titled "Temporal and spatial distribution of high energy electrons at Jupiter" Could it be the same man?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Reading list

"There are only two things: love, all sorts of love, with pretty girls, and the music of New Orleans or Duke Ellington. Everything else ought to go, because everything else is ugly"
- Boris Vian's L'Ecume des Jours (oddly translated as Foam of the Daze)

I was turned on to Vian by Claudia. Her and I made a City Lights expedition to stock up respectively on new books.

There is a grisly story associated with Vian. He wrote another small book called "I Spit on your Graves" and had told a friend that he intended to make it a bestseller.

The book did not sell particularly well at first. But, later a copy of the book was discovered next to the body of a murdered prostitute. Her killer had underlined several passages in Vian's book and had used it as a sort of instruction manual for the murder. After all this came out in the press, the book became a best-seller.


Lucha Libre: Masked Superstars of Mexican Wrestling
The photographs of Lourdes Grobet

This book, with its striking photographs, covers the mythology of the masked Mexican wrestlers. Most of them inhabited several worlds: appearing in the ring of course, but also in films and comics. The central dogma in the mythology was that a Masked Wrestler (Enmascarado) was never to appear in public without his mask. This makes for some surreal photographs of wrestlers at home, leading ordinary domestic lives, holding their children, going on errands - but always with their mask.

I had not realized the depths to which each one had worked on their own story. Here for example is only a small fragment of the backstory for a wrestler called Tinieblas:

"He is the prototype of the Mexican science fiction superhero: a survivor of a superior pre-Hispanic race that cultivated physical, mental and intellectual powers; a civilization bonded by the magical energy emanating from the universe. His name is Tinieblas ... a direct descendant of beings from another world, who, mistaken for gods, arrived with our forefathers. One of their vessels that reached the Earth, a pyramid-shaped spacecraft, was covered by boulders somewhere in the southeastern jungle..."

And this goes on for pages and pages. Here is a photo of Tinieblas along with Tinieblas Jr, and their dwarf alien sidekick. Incredible stuff if only because it is so fantastic and outrageous.


Osman Lins

From my first impression - a convoluted labyrinth of a novel. What else can be said about a novel whose organization stems from the structure of a Latin palindrome? In the book's introduction the translator, the well-regarded Gregory Rabassa, calls this an architectural novel but one that is more akin to "De Chirico than Vitruvius"

Saturday, September 03, 2005


My parents are both extroverts, by even a loose definiton of that term. They both "know everybody" and are well-loved in return. My mother befriends people at the grocery store- always coming back with some story about how she met a wonderful person in the vegetable aisle. My father is the grand entertainer, hosting parties every weekend, even to this day.

I still like to tell the story that as a child - it was me who was diligent about doing his homework while my parents and ten of their closest friends were dancing to salsa music downstairs, my mother cooking up small plates of food, my father passing out beers and going through his immense record collection. It was me who would say "Can you keep it down, please? I'm trying to get my schoolwork done." It was my own parents who replied "Aww. Always so serious! Come on down and have some fun!"


When traveling to visit family abroad, I was known as the "serious" child - the one who seemed lost inside himself. I made friends warily and only with others who seemed to have something to say. Otherwise, I kept to myself, a private person who some still consider to be unfriendly or aloof. I know that this sometimes embarassed my parents. They would anxiously try to explain me away - "That Ricardo lives in his own world." - "He has a rich inner life, you see."

That inner life consisted of my own explorations. Imagined worlds. I still have old notebooks that I used to write in as a child. I see them today only as the monologues of a lonely child. They are full of stories, dreams, invented worlds, attempts to create the axioms of new geometries. There's even a touch of paranoia that I can see now - I was convinced that the role of parents and teachers were to quickly feed us illusions about the world, quickly, before we could see it as it really was - a sort of naked view of things, the world laid bare. And, just as the memory of a dream vanishes quickly upon awakening, most of us have forgotten what we once saw, the pulleys behind the stage, the un-interpreted world.


My brother was more like my parents. He started drinking at an early age. He started dating girls before me even though I was two years his senior. He partied downstairs and away at other people's houses while i studied upstairs. He got involved with street gangs, was thrown in jail for graffiti he painted on walls. He never graduated from high school.

As children, and even later as adults, we would have these tremendous fights. We would sometimes hit and punch and brawl, sometimes drawing blood, until our mother, in screams, would separate us. And yet, and yet, despite our seeming differences I will always tell people that the person who is most like me in the world - is my brother.

All of us have a mischievous side - the child-like part of us that loves to play and laugh. That part of us that attacks the world. That part of us that confirms the act of being alive by embracing risk.

That particular part of me is just like my brother's. We have the same sense of humor and the same sense of what is attractive danger. Despite our seeming differences, it is not uncommon to find us both in the corner, laughing together at some joke or plan that only makes sense to us and to nobody else. If our mischievous side is like an inner demon, then the only difference between me and my brother is that he let his demon have too much control. Uncharitably, my brother is how my inner demon would appear - fully unleashed.


At the age of 16, I did not know what to do with myself. I can't say that I had many friends although that seemed to be of my own choosing. I did have girlfriends - for some reason I had the inverse problem of most young introverts: I knew how to talk to women but had trouble making lasting friends. My fellow high school students had inexplicably voted me as "Most likely to start a cult."

As I was reeling in indecision, a recruiter from a distant college named Harvard called me at home. He said that all of my high school teachers had urged him to talk to me and that he was impressed by what he had heard. I hadn't really decided that I was in fact going to college. I thought that an ideal life would be close to a monastic life - except with some sex involved somehow. But, maybe academics would suit.

I recall telling my mother: "These people from Harvard keep calling me - urging me to go to their college" Her response was: "Well, that sounds suspicious. I've never heard of the place. Let me ask my friends."