Thursday, March 29, 2007

Life is dead

"Time Inc. announced yesterday that Life magazine would cease publication next month, the third time since Life’s founding in 1936 that its owner has pulled the plug.

The magazine once featured the work of some of the world’s greatest photographers. In its current incarnation, it has dwindled to 20 pages of mostly celebrity interviews and homemaking tips. The last issue will be April 20."

Monday, March 26, 2007

Brzezinski on "War on Terror"

Terrorized by 'War on Terror'

by Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter

"To justify the 'war on terror,' the administration has lately crafted a false historical narrative that could even become a self-fulfilling prophecy."
"The culture of fear is like a genie that has been let out of its bottle. It acquires a life of its own -- and can become demoralizing. America today is not the self-confident and determined nation..."
Might this be the mood that we have been discussing in relation to post 9/11 American Fiction?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Ecotopian Activist Warns Congress of ‘Planetary Emergency’

Former Vice President Al Gore, rejecting complaints by Republican lawmakers that he was waging an alarmist war on coal and oil use, insisted before Congressional panels today that human-caused global warming constitutes a “planetary emergency” requiring an aggressive federal response.

Richard Powers tribute to Melville

"This whale is pain, and searing cold. Bursts of fact his skin tells him. Planted in this flat prairie, dumped by a wave that went out too fast. Great jaws bigger than a garage flap on the ground, sounding. Every cry from the cavern throat shakes walls and breaks windows. Far away, blocks down – the stranded beast’s tail flaps. Hemmed in by houses, pinned by this instant low tide.
Miles of air above press down so hard the whale can’t breathe. Can’t lift his own lungs. Dying in dried ocean, smothered underneath the thing it now must inhale. Largest living thing, almost God, stretched out flat, muscles beaten. Only his heart, as big as the courthouse, keeps pounding.
He wants death, if he wants anything. But death rolls away with the retreating water. His breathing is an earthquake. The whale gasps and rolls, crushing lives underneath it, as it is crushed by air. Storms rage in its head. Spears and cables drape down his sides. His skin peels off in sheets of blubber."

~ from The Echo Maker

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

60_Minutes - Brain Man (part 1)

Making Echos

"I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
by the false azure of the windowpane;
I was the smudge of ashen fluff -- and I
Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.
And from the inside, too, I'd duplicate
Myself, my lamp, an apple on a plate:
Uncurtaining the night, I'd let dark glass
Hang all the furniture above the grass,
And how delightful when a fall of snow
Covered my glimpse of lawn and reached up so
As to make chair and bed exactly stand
Upon that snow, out in that crystal land!"
 ~ from Pale Fire

Here is the Fresh Air interview I mentioned on Monday in which Powers discusses among other things, creating the Echo Maker via computer aided voice recognition software and spending a one year self-imposed exile from speaking.

These are the links Theresa provided for the Richard Power interviews here and here, and the NY Times' review here.

Here are the links to the books Fabian recommended for those interested in neurology, neuroscience, and evolutionary psychology.
  ~António Damásio, Descartes' Error
  ~Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Took His Wife for a Hat and A Leg to Stand On.

Also, the BBC has a fairly decent article on synaesthesia, “Why some see colours in numbers.”

This is a video segment from 60 Minutes about Daniel Tammet, known as the Brain Man, whose extraordinary memory is related to the way he “sees” numbers as colors, shapes, and textures. He says he “sees” landscapes. In this sense, we might say his brain creates a mental map using symbols much like the cranes map out their flight plans.

I seem to always search out multiple mediums as a means of adding texture to my own experiences in our literary discussions. Perhaps I myself am just a post-modern product like the characters in our stories. “Memento” is a sort of neo film noir psychological thriller in which the main character suffers from acute short-term memory loss. If film can be post-structural, this one surely is.

And finally, Jean Baudrillard, the philosopher and sociologist most famous for his theories on the hyper-reality(the simulated realm that is "more real than the real") of which we are all products, died on March 6th.

"How is this better than real Ping-Pong?" he asked tiny Jess. He genuinely wanted to know her answer. The same question haunted his work. What was it about the species that would save the symbol and discard the thing it stood for? His seven-year-old sighed. "Dad," she told him, with that first hint of contempt for adulthood and all its trouble with the obvious. "It's just cleaner." The Echo Maker
"What I am, I don't know. I am the simulacrum of myself." Jean Baudrillard

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hip-Hop Pioneer Inducted in the R&R Hall of Fame

It’s official: Hip-hop is rock ’n’ roll.

At least according to the title of the New York Times article. Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the first ever hip-hop band to receive induction.

"Dont push me, cause Im close to the edge
Im trying not to loose my head
Its like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder
How I keep from goin under"
For me, Hip-hop was so cutting edge in that it was a pre-curser (Jamaican Dub being the first) to the eventual post-modern musical expressions of digital sampling and remixing. These guys (and gals) were creating juxtapositions of music, film, TV, and street culture into a deeply expressive art form which would later be adopted by virtually every genre of contemporary popular music, including country. 

Some scholars have argued that hip-hop is fundamentally American, as American as Jazz, Blues, and Rock and Roll. However, America can no longer claim hip-hop as its own, as it has exploded as an art form on 6 Continents and in too many languages to mention.

Today’s digital decedents of Jazz, (they were shunned early on as nothing more than musical pirates) continue to explore combinations and layers of music and sounds, expressing a quintessentially "post-modern experience".

NPR’s All Things Considered has a nice piece here.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Mexican Magic Realism (Frida Kahlo)

Now that I’ve read thru Dreaming in Cuban, I believe Garcia’s magic realism is undeniably and quintessentially Latin-American. I’ve had very little exposure to Cuban art or literature but growing up in South Texas, one is immersed in Mexican, Tex-Mex, and Border Culture. Couldn’t we say that some of Frida Kahlo’s magical imagery makes for a wonderful depiction of Garcia’s lyrical text? A great film representation of Mexican magical realism is, Como agua para chocolate (Like water for chocolate), based on the novel by Laura Esquivel (highly recommended). Of course, we are dealing with Cuban-American literature so this post is not meant as a distraction from that, merely some added texture to our conversation.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Cristina Garcia on "Dreaming in Cuban"

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Time - Pink Floyd

I thought this would be a perfect “transition piece” for Monday. Plus, Pink Floyd just plain rocks and it’s a fantastic song. I’m such a fool for passing the chance to have seen them live.

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but its sinking
And racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in that relative way, but youre older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Recalling Civil Rights, Democrats Seek Black Votes

SELMA, Ala., March 3 — Representative John Lewis, whose political career grew out of the civil rights movement, had longed for the day he could vote for someone that he believed could become the nation’s first black president. So when Senator Barack Obama entered the race, he was on the cusp of declaring his support...Until Bill Clinton called.

pink floyd the wall 1982 - we dont need no education

David’s choice here of “The Wall” to accompany the Ken Kesey reading was just top choice. The song works so well, “All in all you’re just another brick in the wall” but the video (actually the scene from the movie) is just too perfect. It’s fantastic how the young boy hallucinates all the faceless children being shipped off to the “combine”.
Btw, the poem in the middle of the song is an excerpt from a song off the album “The Dark Side of the Moon.”

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Jim Crow: Native American Style

This is just bizarre. I don’t even know how to comment on this. Despite the grotesque and heinous abuses suffered by African Americans, most people, would say the Indians (Native Americans) got the worst treatment of all. What does it say when Native Americans want to expel freedmen (former slaves of the tribes and mixed blood mestizos) from their tribal nations?

"It's oppressed people that's oppressing people," said Verdie Triplett, 53, an outspoken freedman of the Choctaw tribe, which, like the Cherokee, once owned black slaves."

Thursday, March 01, 2007

John Edwards Second Life Campaign HQ Vandalized

According to a post on presidential candidate John Edwards’ official blog, the Democrat’s Second Life campaign headquarters was trashed, apparently by Republican gamers:

Arthur Schlesinger, historian, dies at 89

One of America's cannonical historians and among the most famous of his time, died last night of a heart attack. The New York Times has a very nice front page story here. The piece in the LA Times is also very good.

“Problems will always torment us,” he wrote, “because all important problems are insoluble: that is why they are important. The good comes from the continuing struggle to try and solve them, not from the vain hope of their solution.”