(via Warren Ellis » Brubaker & Phillips’ FATALE: A Preview)
When I started writing, when I was a teenager, I mostly wrote absurdly hard-boiled stories about detectives standing in the rain at funerals, or drinking coffee in diners and talking to equally bleak waitresses. Nothing of “writing what I knew,” but had I watched Cowboy Bebop through 5 or 6 times, read every issue of Hellblazer and spent a lot of time trying to sound like Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past. I thought there was something about the Noir form that could carry more story than anything else I knew, at that age.
The extent to which I might have been right was obscured by years of Creative Writing seminars, where “writing what you know” is an article of faith. That’s not wrong, just incomplete. It’s true, I was never going to say anything deeply meaningful about being a detective, or even about being as weary as the characters I wrote, but that wasn’t the point. Such as they were, the stories were mostly about impossible love and being overwhelmed by the world. The form is just that, a structure to tell a story with and it worked, such as it did.
The stories weren’t great, they weren’t even good, but I remember how wonderful it felt to write them. That all came back, courtesy of the incomparable Warren Ellis, reading through the first 5 pages of Fatale. Haven’t felt that in years, which means, I think, I’ve got a thing on my hands, here.
10:20 am • 3 January 2012 • 16 notes • View comments
Teaching the Classics (and Why the World Won’t End)
…But first the rhetoric of decline, and let me read you another piece of gloom:
On many sides we hear confident assertions…that the work of Greek and Latin is done—that their day is past. If the extinction of these languages as potent instruments of education is a sacrifice inexorably demanded by the advancement of civilisation, regrets are idle, and we must bow to necessity. But we know from history that not the least of the causes of the fall of great supremacies has been the supine-ness and short-sightedness of their defenders. It is therefore the duty of those who believe…that Greek and Latin may continue to confer in the future, as they have done in the past, priceless benefits upon all higher human education, to inquire whether these causes exist, and how they may be at once removed. For if these studies fall, they fall like Lucifer. We can assuredly hope for no second Renaissance.
Now, as you will have guessed from the rhetorical style, that was not written yesterday (although you could have heard much the same points made yesterday). It is, in fact, by the Cambridge Latinist J.P. Postgate, lamenting the decline of Latin and Greek in 1902…
…All this seems almost preposterous to us; for, in our terms, [Postgate and Jefferson are] voices from the Golden Age of classical study and understanding, the age that we have lost. But they are an important reminder of one of the most important aspects of the symbolic register of the classics: that sense of imminent loss, the terrifying fragility of our connections with distant antiquity (always in danger of rupture), the fear of the barbarians at the gates and that we are simply not up to the preservation of what we value. That is to say, tracts on the decline of the classics are not commentaries upon it, they are debates within it: they are in part the expressions of the loss and longing and the nostalgia that have always tinged classical studies. As so often, creative writers capture this sense rather more acutely than professional classicists. The sense of fading, absence, past glories, and the end of an era…
…The truth is that the classics are by definition in decline; even in what we now call the “Renaissance,” the humanists were not celebrating the “rebirth” of the classics; rather like Harrison’s “trackers,” they were for the most part engaged in a desperate last-ditch attempt to save the fleeting and fragile traces of the classics from oblivion. There has been no generation since at least the second century AD that has imagined that it was fostering the classical tradition better than its predecessors. But there is of course an up-side here. The sense of imminent loss, the perennial fear that we might just be on the verge of losing the classics entirely, is one very important thing that gives them—whether in professional study or creative reengagement—the energy and edginess that I think they still have.
— Mary Beard
…Same as it ever was.
8:46 am • 2 January 2012 • 26 notes • View comments
Jeff Buckley - New Year’s Prayer
…Feel no shame for what you are
Feel no shame for what you are
Feel no shame for what you are
Feel no shame for what you are
Feel no shame for what you are…
11:19 pm • 31 December 2011 • 49 notes • View comments
Acedia: The ADHD of the Middle Ages
By some miracle, you set aside a day to tackle that project you can’t seem to finish in the office. You close the door, boot up your laptop, open the right file and … five minutes later catch yourself thinking about dinner. By 10 a.m., you’re staring at the wall, even squinting at it between your fingertips. Is this day 50 hours long? Soon, you fall into a light, unsatisfying sleep and awake dizzy or with a pounding headache; all your limbs feel weighed down. At which point, most likely around noon, you commit a fatal error: leaving the room. I’ll just garden for a bit, you tell yourself, or do a little charity work. Hmmm, I wonder if my friend Gregory is around?
This probably strikes you as an extremely, even a uniquely, modern problem. Pick up an early medieval monastic text, however, and you will find extensive discussion of all the symptoms listed above, as well as a diagnosis. Acedia, also known as the “noonday demon,” appears again and again in the writings of the Desert Fathers from the fourth and fifth centuries. Wherever monks and nuns retreated into cells to labor and to meditate on matters spiritual, the illness struck.
— John Plotz, in the New York Times: “Their Noonday Demons, and Ours" (via technocult)
"The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”
8:13 pm • 30 December 2011 • 26 notes • View comments
Top, screen capture from Emak Bakia, 1926, directed by Man Ray. Via. Bottom, screen capture from Crash, 1996, directed by David Cronenberg. Via.
Currently in the entrails of Los Angeles.
6:25 pm • 29 December 2011 • 95 notes • View comments
Take This Book: The People’s Library at Occupy Wall Street by Melissa Gira Grant, on Kickstarter
"This used to be a library: thousands of books, thousands of people, tended to by a dozen or so librarians in Zucotti Park, the first home of Occupy Wall Street…"
Somewhere in that library was my name, printed and bound above the first story I ever published. On a livestream, I watched it being destroyed as riot cops rolled through the park, as journalists were arrested and the airspace over lower Manhattan closed. I watched the police dump a library full of books into piles on the wet street and dump those piles into trucks, to be carted off.
It’s a testament to symbolism that the office of Mayor Bloomberg felt compelled to trot out some remnant of the library, a fraction of what it contained before the police had their way with it, to demonstrate that they weren’t so cartoonishly villainous as destroying books might suggest. It’s a testament to symbolism that the People’s Library existed in the first place.
Libraries and livestreams…the stories are numerous and so much is about their telling, about how you tell them and where and when. Now, there’s a story to be told about the library itself. Melissa has a book about how this remarkable thing came to be, the people who helped it come to be and what comes next. There are only 3 days left to donate for the project to meet its funding goal. I just doubled my pledge, because we’re all in this together and someone has to write these stories down and someone has to read them. Because…
We are pressed, pressed on each other,
We will be told at once
Of anything that happens
And the discovery of fact bursts
In a paroxysm of emotion
Now as always. Crusoe
We say was
So we have chosen.
By the shipwreck
Of the singular
We have chosen the meaning
Of being numerous…
— George Oppen
8:46 am • 28 December 2011 • 41 notes • View comments
Autograph written by Bill Murray to Aqua Teen Hunger Force co-creator (and past Sound of Young America guest) Dave Willis, in approximately 1980 (Willis was 10).
Make a run for it. You better get the hell out. Quick.
"Make a run for it…"
11:13 pm • 25 December 2011 • 107 notes • View comments
from Messiah (Christmas Portions)
demonstrates what it claims:
glory shall be revealed. If art’s
mustn’t what lies
behind the world be at least
as beautiful as the human voice?
The tenors lack confidence,
and the soloists,
half of them anyway, don’t
have the strength to found
the mighty kingdoms
these passages propose
—but the chorus, all together,
equals my burning clouds,
and seems itself to burn,
deeded to a larger, centering claim.
These aren’t anyone we know;
familiarity in an up-
pouring rush which will not
rest, will not, for a moment,
Aren’t we enlarged
by the scale of what we’re able
to desire? Everything,
the choir insists,
inside these wrappings
burns another, brighter life,
by song: hear how
it cascades, in overlapping,
lapidary waves of praise? Still time.
Still time to change.
-- Mark Doty
11:20 am • 25 December 2011 • 14 notes • View comments
“Display for Images With Their Own Shadows at Museum of Modern Art, Ljubljana”, 2010 and “Display for Images With Their Own Shadows at Metro Pictures Gallery, New York”, 2009 by David Maljković.
"References to the objects’ own history constantly compete with their obvious emptiness and openness, the promise of future uses and the as-yet-unfulfilled longing for such usage. Designed as supports and containers for something else, in an emptied state the works become surfaces for projections, places where (mental) images are created (…) While this ambivalence is already present in each individual display as a result of its being exhibited as an autonomous object, their arrangement in a space takes this to a higher, cinematographic level (…) The importance of movement through space for Maljković is also apparent in his graphic design for the catalogue and the specific use of overlapping pictures. The exhibition architecture and the artist’s thoughts on his own storeroom can only be perceived by walking through them."
— Annette Südbeck
8:55 pm • 22 December 2011 • 14 notes • View comments
Feist - Anti-Pioneer
…I’m genuinely unsure how to describe the tone of this song.
9:42 pm • 19 December 2011 • 14 notes • View comments
"…Allied aircraft vapor trails in skies above US soldier unloading a jeep outside a farmhouse in the Ardennes Forest."
Battle of the Bulge (via @asonnenb)
10:54 am • 19 December 2011 • 63 notes • View comments
how could this be forgotten? It’s magnificent!
The Forgotten Temple of Lysistrata
How can something that doesn’t exist be forgotten? Though I really wish it did.
MAGISTRATE (addressing the women)
I would ask you first why you have barred our gates.
To seize the treasury; no more money, no more war.
Then money is the cause of the war?
And of all our troubles. It was to find occasion to steal that Pisander and all the other agitators were forever raising revolutions. Well and good! but they’ll never get another drachma here.
What do you propose to do then, pray?
You ask me that! Why, we propose to administer the treasury ourselves.
What is there in that to surprise you? Do we not administer the budget of household expenses?
But that is not the same thing.
How so-not the same thing?
It is the treasury supplies the expenses of the war.
That’s our first principle-no war!
1:39 pm • 18 December 2011 • 1,470 notes • View comments
James George, “Alley Posts” | Beyond The Beyond
“an old tourist movie from the future. filmed in an evening walking the streets of Barcelona with a handheld 3d scanner.”
6:08 pm • 16 December 2011 • 8 notes • View comments