Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Sunday, December 21, 2003

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

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

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

Thursday, December 18, 2003

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

Sunday, December 14, 2003

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

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

Here are some shiny things I found:

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

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

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

- Yankovski on Tarkovski and the Inextinguishable Candle

Sunday, December 07, 2003

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 05, 2003

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm looking forward to doing it again.